Change of smoking patterns in Serbia during Covid19
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Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Economic Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia
Research Associate, Institute of Economic Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia
Research Assistant, Institute of Economic Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia
Publication date: 2021-12-13
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2021;7(Supplement):69
Recent research shows that in many countries smokers who increased smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic outnumbered those who decreased it, in spite of higher exposure to COVID-19 severity and death. In this study we compared changes in smoking behavior in the initial and latter stage of pandemic, as well as factors associated with lower intensity of smoking.

We conducted two rounds of survey on representative samples, the first in the initial stage of pandemic (11-19 May 2020) and the second in the latter stage (04-11 June 2021). A multinomial logistic regression was run to estimate associations between smokers' characteristics and lower intensity of smoking. Opposite to the majority of studies which assess psychological factors affecting smoking, we focused on factual determinants of the change in smoking intensity.

The share of smokers who claimed to smoke more increased significantly, from 22.7% in May 2020 to 35.2% in June 2021. The share of smokers who reported a decrease in smoking only slightly increased, from 11.7% to 13.3%. Persistence of the pandemic considerably increased intentions to cease smoking, from 26.3% to 40%. The higher education, income fall and occasional smoking increase odds to reduce smoking during the pandemic. Smokers who are older than 24 years, were not infected by COVID or consume more alcohol are less likely to curb their tobacco consumption.

This research highlights that the majority of smokers do not realize that they are particularly exposed to health risks related to COVID-19, thus smoking the same or more until they get COVID-19 infected. Therefore, tobacco control policy needs to be more proactive in creating public campaigns which demonstrate the severity of COVID-19 impact on smokers’ health. Such campaigns should especially target those groups of smokers who are less able to curb their smoking intensity.