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Has 2020 Been the Year to Quit Tobacco? Insights from Live Chats

Has 2020 Been the Year to Quit Tobacco? Insights from Live Chats

2020 has been quite a year, hasn’t it? And not just to try to quit tobacco. This year has upended almost every way we normally would approach our lives.

A few experiences are almost comical, like putting purchase limits on toilet paper or dreaming about finding the last container of disinfectant wipes (true story about me). But the reality is that many people feel COVID-19 is like a nightmare they can’t wake up from, including those we connect with through live chat.

Here’s an inside look at how topics on live chat with tobacco users have shifted since the pandemic began.

Early in pandemic, live chat participants connected to cope with stress

When the lockdowns began in March, many were experiencing high stress—and as many likely know, stress historically increases tobacco use.

Some couldn’t work so their income was affected. For those not working during the March lockdown, we discussed on live chat how to make the best of the situation and give quitting a try since their normal routines were already thrown out the window.

Some people managed their stress by finding new hobbies like music, crafting, making paper structures from online kits, and baking. Others spent more time outside and found they enjoyed the increased stamina they had from quitting.

Others were essential and had to go into work. Many worked longer hours.

For the people who worked on-site or remotely, many while their kids were distance learning, we focused on ways to carve out a few minutes for themselves just to get a mental break. We discussed trying some quick stress-relieving ideas, like breathing exercises or a brief walk outside their house or workplace.

We found it very impactful to gently remind people to have patience with themselves—and that they weren’t alone. For example, sharing my own personal experiences during the pandemic with participants about distance learning with my own children and how (not) well that was going helped to show I understood. Sometimes that’s all someone needs to hear to keep pushing through.

Now, live chat participants cite health, COVID-19 as reasons to quit tobacco

As we head into the winter months, we’re observing how people are more concerned about the health risks of COVID-19 as a tobacco user or vaper. We also hear more from people about how thankful they are that their employers are giving them a nudge towards quitting by offering the EX Program.

Motivation to participate in the program may have initially been for financial reasons, but people now tell us they are using the program to quit for their health, partly because COVID-19 is a virus that attacks the lungs. For these people, we reaffirm 2 things:

  • How quitting tobacco is the best thing they can do for their health, and
  • During a time when they feel so many things are out of their control, quitting is a way to regain control of one aspect of their lives

Part of our role as EX Coaches is to explore ways to increase people’s self-efficacy around quitting. Validating their ideas, providing realistic options to try, and encouraging them to not give up are all strategies we used pre-COVID. However, now, more than ever, we view these as critical to providing the support many tobacco users need to get through these challenging times and be successful with their quitting goals.

Interested in learning more tips to support employees or members who are planning to quit, in the process of quitting or are trying to remain tobacco-free during this time of high stress and anxiety? I recommend downloading our Tip Sheet: How to Help Tobacco Users Quit and Stay Quit During COVID-19.


Margaret LaPlante
Margaret LaPlante

EX Coach Lead

Margaret collaborates with the live chat team to ensure protocols are always current and research based. She trains the EX Coaches to get participants the help and medication support they need for a successful quit. Margaret has been delivering tobacco cessation coaching since 2004, helping others get the personalized help they need.

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