'I Was Smoking a Lot More during Lockdown Because I Can': A Qualitative Study of How UK Smokers Responded to the Covid-19 Lockdown



O’Donnell R, Eadie D, Stead M, Dobson R & Semple S (2021) 'I Was Smoking a Lot More during Lockdown Because I Can': A Qualitative Study of How UK Smokers Responded to the Covid-19 Lockdown. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (11), Art. No.: 5816.

This study explored how Covid-19 lockdown restrictions affected people’s daily smoking routines and behaviours, including adherence and modifications to pre-established smoking restrictions in the home. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with smokers and non-smokers from smoking households 19 to 27 weeks after the first full UK lockdown ended in May 2020. A non-probability purposive sample representing 25 adults aged 21 or over living in households with at least 1 smoker were recruited to the study. A quota sampling strategy was used, according to age, gender, smoking status, family status, household composition, householder access to outdoor space, and change to work-life status. Most participants found lockdown increased the amount of time spent at home, where stresses associated with confinement, curtailment of social routines, removal of barriers and distractions to smoking due to home working, and feelings of boredom all contributed to increased smoking. Fewer factors were identified as reducing smoking during lockdown. Prominent examples included disruption to habitual smoking patterns and distraction from smoking associated with spending more time doing outdoor activities. Pressures placed on physical space and lack of privacy due to the confinement at home were responsible for displacement of smoking within the home, leading to breaking of smoke-free rules and family tensions, and in some cases to greater awareness amongst parents that their children smoked. Changes in daily routines associated with lockdown affected and displaced smoking behaviour both positively and negatively. Health improvement interventions could seek to harness positive changes in smoking associated with any future lockdown approaches. New home-working norms highlight the need for employers to support staff to reduce their smoking and to remain smoke-free.

Covid-19; lockdown; smoking; home; second-hand smoke; qualitative

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: Volume 18, Issue 11

FundersNational Institute for Health Research
Publication date30/06/2021
Publication date online28/05/2021
Date accepted by journal25/05/2021
PublisherMDPI AG

People (2)


Dr Rachel O'Donnell

Dr Rachel O'Donnell

Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Social Marketing

Professor Sean Semple

Professor Sean Semple

Professor, Institute for Social Marketing


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