Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Exposure to health misinformation about COVID-19 and increased tobacco and alcohol use: a population-based survey in Hong Kong

Abstract

Introduction Health information about COVID-19 has been circulating in social networking sites, including unproven claims that smoking and alcohol drinking could protect against COVID-19. We examined if exposure to such claims was associated with changes in tobacco and alcohol consumption.

Methods We conducted a population-based, landline and mobile phone survey of 1501 randomly sampled adults aged 18 years or older (47.5% male) in Hong Kong in April 2020. Respondents reported if they had ever seen claims that ‘smoking/alcohol drinking can protect against COVID-19’ from popular social networking platforms. Current tobacco and alcohol users reported if they had increased or reduced their consumption since the outbreak. Prevalence data were weighted by sex, age and education of the general adult population.

Results 19.0% (95% CI 16.8% to 21.4%) of all respondents reported having seen claims that ‘smoking/alcohol drinking can protect against COVID-19’ from social networking sites. Multinomial logistic regression showed that exposure to the claims was significantly associated with increased tobacco use (OR 2.37, 95% CI 1.08 to 5.20) in current tobacco users (N=280) and increased alcohol use (OR 4.16, 95% CI 2.00 to 8.67) in current drinkers (N=722), adjusting for sex, age, education level, alcohol/tobacco use status, home isolation, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and survey method.

Conclusion Our results first showed that exposure to health misinformation that smoking/alcohol drinking can protect against COVID-19 was associated with self-reported increases in tobacco and alcohol consumption in Chinese during the pandemic.

  • prevention
  • advertising and promotion
  • media
  • surveillance and monitoring

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.