Tobacco use is a possible risk factor for contracting and spreading COVID-19. We aimed to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Youth Quitline service and quitting behaviors of its users in Hong Kong. We conducted a telephone survey involving 201 participants of the Youth Quitline service, and retrospectively analyzed the operation and use of Quitline since the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. The number of incoming calls to the Youth Quitline and the participants' quit rate has increased since the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. Many participants (68%) did not realize that tobacco use potentially increased their risk for developing and spreading COVID-19; however, 43% agreed that the pandemic motivated their intention to quit, and 83% changed their smoking habits during the pandemic. These changes were mainly due to wearing masks (30%), closure of bars/pubs (25%), suspension of classes (14%), and being unable to socialize with friends (24%). Overall, 58% reduced their tobacco use; of these participants, 66% reported a ≥50% reduction in daily cigarette consumption. The participants reduced their smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic despite lacking knowledge about the potentially increased risk for contracting COVID-19 from continued smoking. The pandemic could create new opportunities to motivate young smokers to quit smoking, especially those seeking support for smoking cessation, and may further contribute to reducing the risks posed by COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19; tobacco use; young smoker; youth health.