This study explored how Covid-19 lockdown restrictions affected people’s daily smoking routines and behaviours, including adherence and modifications to pre-established smoking restrictions in the home. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with smokers and non-smokers from smoking households 19 to 27 weeks after the first full UK lockdown ended in May 2020. A non-probability purposive sample representing 25 adults aged 21 or over living in households with at least 1 smoker were recruited to the study. A quota sampling strategy was used, according to age, gender, smoking status, family status, household composition, householder access to outdoor space, and change to work-life status. Most participants found lockdown increased the amount of time spent at home, where stresses associated with confinement, curtailment of social routines, removal of barriers and distractions to smoking due to home working, and feelings of boredom all contributed to increased smoking. Fewer factors were identified as reducing smoking during lockdown. Prominent examples included disruption to habitual smoking patterns and distraction from smoking associated with spending more time doing outdoor activities. Pressures placed on physical space and lack of privacy due to the confinement at home were responsible for displacement of smoking within the home, leading to breaking of smoke-free rules and family tensions, and in some cases to greater awareness amongst parents that their children smoked. Changes in daily routines associated with lockdown affected and displaced smoking behaviour both positively and negatively. Health improvement interventions could seek to harness positive changes in smoking associated with any future lockdown approaches. New home-working norms highlight the need for employers to support staff to reduce their smoking and to remain smoke-free.


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Cite as

O'Donnell, R., Eadie, D., Stead, M., Dobson, R. & Semple, S. 2021, ''I Was Smoking a Lot More during Lockdown Because I Can': A Qualitative Study of How UK Smokers Responded to the Covid-19 Lockdown', International Journal of the Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(11), article no: 5816. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18115816

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 01 April 2023
Was this page helpful?