Skip to main content

First Report on Smoking and Infection Control Behaviours at Outdoor Hotspots during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Unobtrusive Observational Study

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18(3):1031. 2021
Sun Y., Lam T.H., Cheung Y.T.D.*, Wang M.P., Wu Y., Chen J., Zhang X., Li W.H.C., Ho S.Y.


This study was to observe smoking behaviours and infection control behaviours in smokers at outdoor smoking hotspots during the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong. We conducted unobtrusive observations at nine hotspots during 1 July 2019–31 January 2020 (pre-outbreak, 39 observations), 1 February–30 April 2020 (outbreak, eight observations), and 1 May–11 June 2020 (since-outbreak, 20 observations). Sex, age group, type of tobacco products used, duration of stay, group smoking behaviours, face mask wearing and infection control behaviours of smokers, and mask wearing of non-smoking pedestrians were observed. Compared with pre-outbreak, lower volumes of smokers were observed during outbreak and since-outbreak. Smokers gathered more in a group (24.5% and 25.8% vs. 13.4%, respectively) and stayed longer (91.5% and 83.6% vs. 80.6% stayed ≥1 min) during outbreak and since-outbreak than pre-outbreak. Ninety-six percent smokers possessed a face mask. While smoking, 81.6% of smokers put the mask under the chin and 13.8% carried it in the hand, 32.4% did not wear a mask immediately after smoking, 98.0% did not sanitize hands, and 74.3% did not keep a distance of at least one metre. During the COVID-19 pandemic, smokers gathered closely and stayed longer at the hotspots, and few practised hand hygiene, all of which may increase the risk of infection. View Full-Text

Keywords: smoker; smoking; COVID-19; infection control behaviours; face mask

PubMed Search

(*Corresponding Author)