Stoptober, the UK Government’s anti-smoking campaign has returned for its ninth year in 2020. This year, Stoptober coincides with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought many extra motives for consumers to quit. According to GlobalData, Covid-19 will make a substantial impact in the UK cigarette market, resulting in an annual shrink of 15% of sales volume in 2020. Prior to the pandemic, cigarette volumes were expected to shrink at closer to 6%.

According to new data from the UCL Smoking Toolkit Study, there has been an increase in the quitting success rate during Covid-19, rising from 14% to 23%, the highest since 2007. There has likewise been a surge among attempts to quit relative to 2019, with Action on Smoking and Health estimating the number of smokers fell by over 1 million.

Smokers are at greater risk

Stoptober encourages consumers to quit for 28 days, based on the evidence that smokers are five times more likely to quit for good if they can pass this milestone. Evidence on smoking and its relationship with Covid-19 is complex and developing, but medical authorities typically advise that smokers have an increased risk of respiratory infection and more severe symptoms when infected.

Consumers are hyper-aware of health during the pandemic; in fact, GlobalData’s most-recent consumer survey* found that while one in five UK consumers consider themselves ‘not concerned’ about their physical fitness and health, the remaining four fifths describe themselves from slightly to extremely concerned.**

Saving money by not smoking will be a factor

Brexit and Covid-19-related damage to the economy are also weighing heavily on UK consumers’ minds. GlobalData’s most recent consumer survey* found that 43% of UK consumers expect the economic situations in their country to get a bit worse in the next month and a further 30% believe that it will get significantly worse. As recessions bite and jobs disappear, many consumers tend to try and save money by quitting smoking, which has been progressively taxed for years. GlobalData’s latest research also found that around 8% of UK millennials and gen x consumers intend to stop buying tobacco and tobacco alternatives as they are beyond their shopping budgets*.

Smoking has been on a downward trajectory in the UK for several years, in significant part due to health concerns. Covid-19, however, has for many consumers amplified the importance of that health message, and for younger consumers, financial uncertainty has encouraged them to quit.

* Covid-19 week 8 recovery consumer survey

** Covid-19 week 8 recovery consumer survey, combining answers “slightly concerned”, “quite concerned” and “extremely concerned”