UMMS Affiliation

Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type

Article Postprint


Behavioral Medicine | Community Health | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


INTRODUCTION: We used a longitudinal cohort of U.S. adults who were current or former smokers to explore how three participant-reported factors - general stress, COVID-19 distress, and perceived risk of complications from COVID-19 related to smoking - were associated with changes in smoking status.

METHODS: Smoking status was assessed at three time points. Timepoint 1 status was assessed at a prior study completion (2018-2020). Timepoint 2 (start of the pandemic) and Timepoint 3 (early phase of the pandemic) statuses were assessed using an additional survey in 2020. After classifying participants into eight groups per these time points, we compared the means of participant-reported factors and used a linear regression model to adjust for covariates.

RESULTS: Participants (n=392) were mostly female (73.9%) and non-Hispanic White (70.1%). Between Timepoints 2 and 3, abstinence rates decreased by 11%, and 40% of participants reported a smoking status change. Among those reporting a change and the highest general stress levels, newly abstinent participants had higher perceived risk of complications from COVID-19 related to smoking than those who relapsed during pandemic (mean (standard deviation): 14.2 (3.3) vs. 12.6 (3.8)). Compared to participants who sustained smoking, those who sustained abstinence, on average, scored 1.94 less on the general stress scale (betaeta Coefficient (beta): -1.94, p-value < 0.01) and 1.37 less on the perceived risk of complications from COVID-19 related to smoking scale (beta: -1.37, p-value 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS: Decreased abstinence rates are concerning. Patterns of reported factors were as expected for individuals who sustained their smoking behavior but not for those who changed.

IMPLICATIONS: We observed an increase in smoking rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. In exploring how combinations of general stress levels, COVID-19 distress levels, and perceived risk of complications from COVID-19 related to smoking were associated with changes in smoking, we observed expected patterns of these factors among individuals who sustained abstinence or smoking. Among individuals who changed smoking status and reported high stress levels, those who reported a higher perceived risk of complications from COVID-19 related to smoking abstained from smoking. In contrast, those who reported a lower perceived risk of complications from COVID-19 related to smoking, started smoking. An intersectional perspective may be needed to understand smokers' pandemic-related behavior changes.


smoking, adult, hispanics or latinos, stress, behavioral change, pandemics, risk perception, linear regression, smokers, covid-19, coronavirus, pandemic

Rights and Permissions

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Nicotine and Tobacco Research following peer review. The version of record is available online at: Accepted manuscript posted after 12 months as allowed by the publisher's self-archiving policy at

DOI of Published Version



Nagawa CS, Ito Fukunaga M, Faro JM, Liu F, Anderson E, Kamberi A, Orvek EA, Davis M, Pbert L, Cutrona SL, Houston TK, Sadasivam RS. Characterizing pandemic-related changes in smoking over time in a cohort of current and former smokers. Nicotine Tob Res. 2022 Feb 5:ntac033. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac033. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35137213. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Nicotine and tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Available for download on Sunday, February 05, 2023