Israelis are literally fuming over the COVID-19 pandemic! Not only are they angry over deaths and economic woes, but they are also smoking more tobacco and cannabis and creating fumes.
Data presented at an online conference of the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health showed that since the pandemic began, Israelis – those lighting up cigarettes and those using marijuana – have shown a significant increase in smoking.
Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker, director of the Health Ministry\s National Center for Disease Control and senior researcher at the university’s School of Public Health, presented data from a survey showing that almost 30% of cigarette smokers and 35% of cannabis smokers reported that they smoked more since the new coronavirus spread in Israel and around the world..
A total of 2,580 smokers participated on two dates – the end of the first wave of the pandemic last spring and the beginning of the restrictions of the second closure in the fall.
The results of the survey show that 21.7% also reported that they refused or refused to seek medical treatment at the due to the fear of contracting the virus; 4.4% reported that they delayed going to a hospital for an urgent medical condition out of fear of corona.
Regarding the level of general anxiety of the public it was found that during the second closure period, 12.8 percent reported a state of general anxiety last fall compared to 7.7% who reported anxiety at the end of the first closure and removal of restrictions. It was also found that 21.1% reported a decrease in sleep quality. Nearly 30 percent reported that they had gained weight since the onset of the pandemic.
Dr. Sharon Schnitman reported the increase in cannabis smoking, even though it is still illegal for general use and approved only for medical reasons among those Israelis who have Health Ministry permission to use it. The survey did not include people who use smokeless tobacco – both vaping and heated tobacco products that tobacco companies are pushing as a “replacement” for tobacco smokers.
But researchers at the University of York are calling for more stringent regulatory measures to reduce the health burden of smokeless tobacco, a product often found in UK stores without the proper health warnings and as a result of illicit trading.
Smokeless tobacco is particularly popular in Asia and Africa and includes chewing tobacco as well as various types of nasal tobacco. They contain high levels of nicotine as well as cancer producing toxic chemicals, making head and neck cancers common in those who consume smokeless tobacco products.
In a study of 25 wards across five boroughs, researchers looked at the types of products sold in local shops and assessed their compliance with UK regulations. They found that small amounts of smokeless tobacco are smuggled into the UK through domestic luggage, and larger amounts came through land and sea routes via Europe, whilst others are produced locally through small scale setups. In 52% of the local shops surveyed, products were sold under different brand names, none of which are legally permitted for sale in the UK.
Faraz Siddiqui, research fellow at the University of York’s department of health sciences, said: “Many people of South Asian origin use smokeless tobacco products, and it is particularly popular among women. Continued use of these products is known to lead to several oral and general health conditions, including cancers. It is imperative that smokeless tobacco products, which are directly implicated in head and neck cancers, are regulated in the same way that cigarette smoking is. And yet despite 181 countries agreeing to a common approach to controlling the demand and supply, there is still a serious lack of regulations in place.”