Impact of a Coronavirus Pandemic on Smoking Behavior in University Students: An Online Survey in Türkiye

Turk J Pharm Sci. 2022 Aug 31;19(4):416-421. doi: 10.4274/tjps.galenos.2021.26985.


Objectives: Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has a massive impact on human health, causing sudden lifestyle changes. As it affects health, determining the lifestyles of university students related to smoking has gained importance. This study provides evidence of change in smoking behavior among university students in Türkiye during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Materials and methods: This cross-sectional survey study was conducted via an electronic questionnaire approximately 2020-2021 among university students in Türkiye. The study comprised a structured questionnaire that inquired about demographic information; and the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence. The questionnaire was distributed randomly to university students; it required 6 min to complete.

Results: A total of 749 respondents were included in the study, aged between 19 and 35 years (54.8% females). Of 749 participants, 571 health science students (medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, etc.) completed the survey. The pre-pandemic and COVID-19 pandemic mean nicotine dependence scores were 3.03 and 2.97, respectively. A difference was seen pre-pandemic (p= 0.002) and during pandemic (p= 0.005) for those studying in health and other departments. Students who had middle socio-economical status had significantly higher nicotine dependence scores pre- COVID-19, compared to during the pandemic (p= 0.027). Compared to pre and during the pandemic, the mean score of dependence was significantly lower in students, whose parents were non-smokers during the pandemic.

Conclusion: In this study, we have provided the first data on the Turkish university student's nicotine dependence changes during the COVID-19 lockdown. The nicotine dependence level may change based on various factors including behavioral changes. Crucial times such as pandemics can affect individuals, thus, smoking addiction can increase. Behavioral support for quitting smoking such as digital platforms, internet, and television programs should also assist to support smokers quitting successfully during this supreme time.

Keywords: COVID-19; Smoking behaviors; Türkiye; university students.