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Factors associated with smoking behaviour changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan: a 6-month follow-up study


Background Smoking behaviour may have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the April 2020 revised smoke-free policy and the high prevalence of heated tobacco product (HTP) use in Japan (10.9% in 2020). This study examined the association between these three events and smoking behaviour changes using 6-month follow-up data from before and during the pandemic.

Method Using longitudinal data from an internet survey conducted in February 2020 (baseline) and follow-up in August to September 2020, prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) for smoking behaviour changes (increase and quit) were calculated using multivariable Poisson regression with adjustments for potential covariates including three event-related five factors: fear of COVID-19, living in a COVID-19 endemic area, workplace smoking rules, self-imposed smoking rules at home and type of tobacco use (cigarette only/HTP only/dual use). A smoker who reported an increase in smoking intensity in the last month was defined as an increase. A smoker who had stopped both cigarettes and HTPs at follow-up was defined as a quit.

Results We analysed 1810 tobacco users (1448 males (80%); mean age 50.8 years±13.2 SD). At baseline, 930 participants used cigarettes only, 293 HTPs only and 587 both. While 214 (11.8%) users increased smoking intensity, 259 (14.3%) quit both tobacco products. Those who feared COVID-19 were less likely to quit (PR=0.77, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.95), while living in a COVID-19 endemic area was not associated with either smoking behaviour change. Workplace smoking rules were not associated with either smoking behaviour change, but those with no home smoking ban were less likely to quit. Compared with cigarette-only users, HTP-only users were more likely to quit (PR=1.57, 95% CI 1.17 to 2.11), while dual users were more likely to increase smoking intensity (PR=1.35, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.79).

Conclusion During the pandemic, dual cigarette and HTP use increased smoking intensity, whereas HTP-only use was associated with quitting but fear of COVID-19 and not having a home smoking ban made it harder to quit.

  • COVID-19
  • Cessation
  • Public policy
  • Non-cigarette tobacco products

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available upon reasonable request. The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author (TT) upon reasonable request.

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