In news that is unlikely to surprise many of us after a year of on-off lockdown conditions and other restrictions on our daily lives, a new survey has found that people's stress levels during the COVID-19 crisis have helped drive up smoking rates.
Analysts Mintel polled 1,935 adults in October, and discovered that over half of smokers had been "stress-smoking" more since the onset of the coronavirus situation.
No less worrying was the finding that a tenth of the UK's cigarette users had begun to smoke again after quitting - again, as a consequence of the mental strain of the crisis.
What else did we learn from the research?
The study showed evidence of a particular tendency among young people to treat smoking as a means of coronavirus escapism; 39% of smokers in the 18-34 age bracket said they were now smoking more regularly.
However, with the equivalent figure for all smokers being 30%, it's clear that "stress-smoking" has been a problem for Britons across the age groups.
The research findings also indicated that smokers were aware of the disconnect between COVID-19-related health worries and their drift back towards a less-than-brilliant habit for their respiratory health.
Almost seven in 10 (69%) respondents said their respiratory health was more important to them now than prior to the coronavirus outbreak. At the same time, 65% expressed the fear that the virus posed greater danger to them than it did to non-smokers.
"The pandemic has elevated stress levels"
Mintel director Roshida Khanom commented: "The pandemic has elevated stress levels... there has been a peak amongst young smokers where increased unemployment and job uncertainty is likely to have driven (smoking) rates."
Meanwhile, Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: "A million smokers were galvanised to quit during the first lockdown, but as this research shows, some will have relapsed and those who didn't stop may now be smoking more.
"Every smoker should know help is out there to stop and that although quitting can be stressful to start with, after only a few weeks ex-smokers experience improved wellbeing as much or greater than if they were taking anti-depressants."
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