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High Perceived Susceptibility to and Severity of COVID-19 in Smokers Are Associated with Quitting-Related Behaviors

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 18(20):10894. 2021
Li Y., Luk T.T.*, Wu Y., Cheung D.Y.T., Li W.H.C., Tong H.S.C., Lai V.W.Y., Ho S.Y., Lam T.H., Wang M.P. 


A growing body of evidence shows smoking is a risk factor for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We examined the associations of quitting-related behaviors with perceived susceptibility to and severity of COVID-19 in smokers. We conducted a telephone survey of 659 community-based adult smokers (81.7% male) in Hong Kong, where there was no lockdown. Exposure variables were perceptions that smoking can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 (perceived susceptibility) and its severity if infected (perceived severity). Outcome variables were quit attempts, smoking reduction since the outbreak of the pandemic, and intention to quit within 30 days. Covariates included sex, age, education, heaviness of smoking, psychological distress, and perceived danger of COVID-19. High perceived susceptibility and severity were reported by 23.9% and 41.7% of participants, respectively. High perceived susceptibility was associated with quit attempts (prevalence ratio (PR) 2.22, 95% CI 1.41-3.49), smoking reduction (PR 1.75, 95% CI 1.21-2.51), and intention to quit (PR 2.31, 95% CI 1.40-3.84). Perceived severity of COVID-19 was associated with quit attempts (PR 1.64, 95% CI 1.01-2.67) but not with smoking reduction or intention to quit. To conclude, the perceived susceptibility to and severity of COVID-19 in smokers were associated with quitting-related behaviors in current smokers, which may have important implications for smoking cessation amid the pandemic.

Key Words: Chinese; coronavirus disease; quit attempt; risk perception; smoking cessation; tobacco

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(*Correspondence Author)