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Changes in tobacco use at the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic: Results of four cross-sectional surveys in Hong Kong.

Abstract

We analyzed data from four cross-sectional telephone/online surveys from April to June 2020 to investigate such changes since the 1st and 2nd wave outbreaks (February to April 2020) in Hong Kong. The respondents were 1595 adults (83.2% male) who used tobacco before the COVID-19 outbreak from our previous intervention study and surveys. We investigated the changes in tobacco use, intention to quit and quit attempts during the outbreak.

About two-thirds (65.3%) of respondents reported no change in overall tobacco use, while 23.1% used less (including cessation) and 11.6% used more, resulting in a net decrease of 11.5 percentage points. A greater net decrease was observed for cigarettes (14.3% points) than heated tobacco products (HTPs, 3.3% points) and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, 2.5% points). Decreased use was mainly due to the more extended stay at home (63.2%), health considerations (52.6%) and mask-wearing (47.4%), while increased use was for passing time (75.0%) and releasing stress (46.4%). Eight percent of cigarette, HTP and e-cigarette users reported a higher intention to quit since the pandemic outbreak. Nineteen percent of tobacco users (176/948) attempted to quit during the pandemic. Only 2.9% (46/1569) were abstinent at the time of the survey.

Changes in tobacco use since the COVID-19 outbreak differed by countries and little is known about changes in the use of specific tobacco products.

Overall tobacco use decreased after the first two waves of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. A greater proportion of cigarette users decreased use than HTP and e-cigarette users. Given the different methods used in the four surveys, future studies should aim for a large and representative sample.

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