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Corona concerns prompt thousands to quit smoking

Around 10 percent of Finland's population still smokes, according to the tobacco policy group ASH Finland.

File photo of woman smoking cigarette. Image: Nella Nuora / Yle

Thousands of people in Finland quit their smoking habits this year directly due to coronavirus concerns, according to a survey commissioned by the tobacco policy and public health group ASH Finland.

The survey found that 15 percent of respondents quit smoking directly because of coronavirus-related health concerns. According to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), as well as other health authorities, being a smoker increases a person's risk of health complications following a coronavirus infection.

ASH Finland estimated that between 5,000 to 18,000 people in Finland quit smoking directly due to health concerns regarding coronavirus. The broad estimate was due to a relatively large margin of error, according to the organisation.

The group's survey found that the epidemic prompted 11 percent of smokers to try to quit smoking, while 15 percent made efforts to smoke less than before the epidemic began.

Some 84 percent of those who quit smoking said they did it for health reasons, while the proportion of people who said they quit to improve their health in a similar survey in 2018 was 73 percent.

On the way out

In this year's survey, 65 percent said they quit for financial reasons with more than half saying they thought smoking was a completely pointless habit.

According to ASH Finland, about 10 percent of Finland's population smokes tobacco, one percent uses e-cigarettes while four percent uses the oral tobacco product snus.

Just over 2,300 people between the ages of 18-79 responded to the survey, which was carried out on 22-24 September 2020, with an overall margin of error of 2.2 percent in either direction.

The use of tobacco in Finland has steadily decreased over several decades, and that trend is continuing, according to the organisation, which noted that Finland once the most tobacco-hungry country in the world.

In the 1940s, three-quarters of all adult men in the country smoked. But thanks to health campaigns and legislation, tobacco use has declined since the 1960s. Finland has set a goal for less than five percent of the population to use tobacco or nicotine products by the 2030s.