Covid fear not enough to quit smoking

Business Covid-19 Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, smoking  makes people more vulnerable to Covid19, but still  people are not quitting the habit finds Crisil report.

Bengaluru: Crisil Ratings says cigarette sales have risen seven to nine percent equating to 83 billion sticks this fiscal year. A study from Lancelet says people saw the pandemic as an opportunity to quit smoking. However, cigarette sales don’t say the same.

*Kishor, a 26-year-old Business Management professional says, “I had been smoking often, since my college days and I could never successfully quit it. But after the pandemic, the supply chain was disrupted and it became difficult to get cigarettes. Since I had no option to smoke for months, it eventually broke my smoking habit once and for all.”

The number of people who actually quit smoking was very high during the pandemic. “As many as 75 percent of all who called to quit said they had given up and nearly about 40 percent had quit in one month. This is the double of what we would see in pre-covid times,” said Dr. Pratima Murthy, a professor of psychiatry and head of the department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru in a webinar.

Lockdown had forced cigarette manufacturers to put production on hold as a result cigarette supply chain was disrupted. Most people quit smoking during the pandemic because of unavailability.

*Suresh, a 28-year-old Information Technology professional, says, “I have been smoking for last eight years, in the pandemic, there was a shortage of cigarettes in the market. My regular vendors were selling cigarettes for double the price. As it was affecting my pocket so I had to stop smoking for at least two months till the prices came back to normal.”

Dr. Ravi Prakash, a psychiatrist said, “People may not quit cigarettes because they did not have the option to smoke, the addiction cannot be stopped like this. It needs proper medication and treatment to get out of habit.”

“Overall cigarette sales volume rebounded strongly to 95 percent of the pre-pandemic level in the fourth quarter of last fiscal due to a return to the near-normal situation,” says Gautam Shahi, Director, CRISIL Ratings, in a press release.

Recovery of cigarette sales to the pre-pandemic level can be seen. ITC is the largest cigarette manufacturer in India. Its sales has jumped by 33 percent to Rs 5,122 crore during quarter one of the financial year 2022 (Q1FY22) from Rs 3,854 crore a year ago. Cigarette sales contributed 65 percent to ITC’s revenues.

According to a study, almost 70 percent of users said the pandemic has had no impact on their tobacco consumption. A tiny percentage felt the pandemic had had no impact. Because of the heightened stress they were facing in the current situation, 4 percent of users reported increasing their cigarette usage.

The most prevalent outcomes among those who believed it had impacted their tobacco use were due to  non-availability of tobacco products (45 percent), increased tobacco product prices (27 percent), and users who felt this was an opportunity to stop (24 percent).