NEARLY 27,000 smokers in the North-East have tried to kick the habit because of Covid-19, while a further 120,000 people have cut down according to new research.

The figures are based on findings from the UK arm of YouGov’s international Covid Tracker and come as evidence is showing that smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness.

This week the #QuitforCOVID campaign is being launched by the Smokefree Action Coalition, Fresh and respiratory clinicians.

Fresh has also launched a new radio and online campaign running in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham to highlight the risks and the benefits of quitting to health.

The survey snows that 2 per cent of ex-smokers say that they have quit completely recently due to Covid -19, equating to around 300,000 people nationwide. About 14 per cent of smokers say it has made them less likely to quit.

The Association of Directors of Public Health and Public Health England have also joined the call for smokers to quit for Covid-19.

Professor Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health for Newcastle and lead Director of Public Health for tobacco in the North-East, said: “This is a worrying time for everyone and we are all looking for ways to minimise our risk. As well as hand washing and social distancing, quitting smoking is one very important and positive step for anyone who smokes.

“You would be hard pressed to find any family in the North-East that doesn’t have one family member who has been affected by smoking. Historically £we have had higher rates of smoking and even though rates have nearly halved since 2005, smoking still causes over 5000 deaths a year in the North East. It’s vital that we keep a focus on reducing smoking and clearly communicate the many reasons to give quitting a go. It is never too late, you’re never too old, and there are immediate benefits”.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “There has possibly never been a more important time to quit smoking than right now. Covid-19 is focusing everyone’s minds on staying healthy and for people who smoke, quitting is an incredibly important step.

“We are launching this campaign because smoking has emerged very clearly from doctors and from studies around the world as causing worse complications from coronavirus. This must be worrying news for smokers, but it is something that everyone have a right to know.

“We are encouraging anyone who smokes to give quitting a go now – even if you’ve tried before, it is never too late to try to quit and stopping brings benefits at any age.”