82.9% of Greek smokers say they do not have the information they need about alternative smoking products. This is a high percentage, especially given that 88% of those surveyed believe that reliable information about these alternatives should be readily available.
The urgent need for more accessible and evidence-based information on alternatives to smoking and how to quit was highlighted in a nationwide survey conducted in March by market research firm Marc for tobacco company Papastratos, called Pandemic, Isolation and smoking – habits and social trends. ”
In a survey of 1,200 smokers sampled from households in both urban and peri-urban areas, more than half said they were not sufficiently aware of the ways to quit smoking or the benefits of doing so. The situation is worst among young smokers: 61.7% of people aged 21 to 34 said they did not have the necessary information. Marc CEO Thomas Gerakis said:
“The biggest problem identified in this survey is what I would call a lack of information. And I think the problem is even bigger than what we see in this study, because it’s very difficult to admit that you don’t know something. ”
Despite the lack of information, Greeks seem to have adopted some alternatives to smoking. Currently, 45.6% of the population believes that such smoking products are less harmful to health than smoking cigarettes. Moreover, the highest rates were recorded for the age group from 21 to 34 years old (60.9%), as well as for people with higher education (51.2%).
How the pandemic affected smoking
The situation is exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic: 27.7% of smokers surveyed (a figure that corresponds to about 600,000 people in Greece) said they smoked more during the pandemic and 7.1% (about 153,000 people) quit smoking before the pandemic went on the next wave. Most often, the unemployed (47.6%), self-employed (37.4%) and, again, persons in the age group from 21 to 34 years old (37.8%) were “friends with a cigarette”.
These numbers clearly highlight the link between smoking and stress. It is important to note that these people consume more cigarettes, despite the fact that 84.3% of all smokers are concerned about the serious health consequences of this habit. Meanwhile, however, 18.4% of smokers admit that they cannot name substances harmful to our health in a cigarette – another example that proves how critical the need for information is to help people overcome difficulties and end a bad habit.
However, it should be noted that Greece is not a country where smoking is booming. On the contrary, smokers are in the minority. There is a very large contingent of “exes” and smoking is generally decreasing. The intention to end smoking by the end of 2021, incl. cigarettes, announced last year by Papastratos, remains unchanged despite the setback caused by the pandemic.
The role of science in smoking cessation
The public seems to recognize the innovative nature of alternative smoking products. More than nine out of ten respondents (both smokers and nonsmokers) said it is important to consider the science and technology behind the new option when choosing an alternative smoking product. There are currently about 440,000 users of alternative products in Greece.
Smoking harms relationships
Finally, it seems that, besides the most important reason not to smoke (i.e. how harmful it is to our health), image is also important. Research shows that smoking is considered obsolete, unattractive, and harmful to relationships. In a survey of nonsmokers, 70.7% considered smoking an outdated habit, and every second (50.5%) agreed that people who smoke are less attractive and desirable than those who do not have such an addiction.
In addition, 49% of smokers with a non-smoking partner reported that their habit causes disagreement and quarrels, and 38.8% of smokers claim that this process often causes tension and quarrels with people from their social groups.
The growing pressure on smokers to quit smoking or to turn to less harmful alternatives is spreading to their wider social circle and social environment. Survey participants stated that their smoker status affects their hospitality in other people’s homes (every second family does not allow smoking in their home), and non-smokers talked about how they feel when smokers visit them – 61% say that they uncomfortable in smoky places.
The evidence suggests that the social stigma towards smokers is clear. Every third (34%) smoker says that they often feel uncomfortable in groups of nonsmokers, 30.6% share the belief that they are discriminated against, and 13.6% said they hide this fact from friends or relatives.
Commenting on the survey, Stavros Dracularakos, director of public relations for Papastratos, noted that more than 300,000 people have already quit smoking. He went on to say: “One year after our open call to reduce the number of smokers by 1,000,000 by the end of 2021, and we see that one in four people in Greece continues this addiction. And all this at a time when smokers are looking for reliable information to quit smoking or switch to alternative methods, and at a time when most members of society consider smoking an outdated habit.
“Guided by science and technology, we strive to continue this path towards the changes that our society needs and towards a future in which cigarettes will be a thing of the past. A future that is closer than ever, with an appropriate regulatory framework and community support. We assume that in ten to fifteen years we will stop selling cigarettes in many countries around the world. “