Experts see decrease in smokers, increase in tobacco treatments due to COVID-19 risks

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — One Springfield resident says she has changed her life for the better because of COVID-19.

A recent survey by a group called Smoking and Health (ASH) shows 40% out of the 10,000 people surveyed have stopped smoking due to cost, their health and changes to routine.

“The pandemic in a way has been a blessing because it’s realized I needed to make some changes and create a different lifestyle,” said Ivy Burleson, a Springfield resident.

Sept. 21 marks 51 days without a cigarette for Burleson. She says COVID-19 forced her to stay at home more.

“I don’t smoke that much whenever I’m at home,” said Burleson. “I guess due to the pandemic you can’t really go out to bars, and if I’m drinking I have a cigarette in my hand, so I did both, I quit smoking and drinking”.

Not having those typical temptations, Burleson says she started going to the gym because staying busy was key.

With the pandemic everything seems to moving so much slower,” said Burleson.

Jim Brawner, a tobacco treatment specialist with CoxHealth, says he’s seen a 33% increase in people reaching out for help in 2020 compared to last year.

“Our elderly is saying ‘you know what, I don’t want this to be the thing that takes me out,'” said Brawner. “We have some 70 year olds right now that are quitting for the first time.”

Brawner says it’s not only the older demographic reaching out for help.

“I’m really surprised in the areas of the 20 and 30 year olds getting on board with this,” said Brawner.

“I feel like I have this new glow about me. I can breathe better, if I walk by someone with a cigarette it smells horrible, I’m glad that’s not me anymore,” says Burleson. “The only extra risk factor there was being a smoker, so now I’m just even less susceptible, so it’s better. I’m less scared.”

Brawner says there are scholarships and other assistance available for those who are interested in nicotine replacements or tobacco cessation classes.

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