Science and Technology

Alcohol, tobacco sales grew during initial months of Covid-19 pandemic: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 02, 2021

File photo   -  THE HINDU

‘Stress, boredom and loneliness caused by the pandemic may have led to increased alcohol and tobacco use’

New Keck Medicine of USC research suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic may have had harmful indirect repercussions.

In the United States, alcohol and tobacco sales nationwide rose in the early months of Covid-19, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

From April to June 2020, sales of these substances increased 34 per cent and 13 per cent respectively compared to the same months of 2019, showed the research.

“These are significant jumps, and show that the stress, boredom and loneliness caused by the pandemic may have led to increased alcohol and tobacco use,” said lead author Brian P Lee, a hepatologist and liver transplant specialist with Keck Medicine and the USC Institute for Addiction Science.

Methodology

For the study, the researchers sought national data from the Nielsen National Consumer Panel, which tracks the spending habits of approximately 70,000 households in the US.

Researchers compared alcohol and tobacco sales between the months of April and June in 2020 with the same time period in 2019.

Findings

The researchers found that from 2019 to 2020, tobacco sales spiked in households across all demographics, and alcohol sales increased across nearly all demographics as well.

“We hypothesised that these subgroups, such as those with younger children, were buying more alcohol and tobacco because they felt more stressed than other segments of the population,” said Lee.

"For those with a higher income, sales might have increased simply because they have greater disposable income," he added.

The data also revealed that sales of hard liquor increased more than wine and beer. "Liquor has the highest alcohol content and could be a sign of problem drinking," he said.

Lee believes that the study may reveal a previously unrecognised Covid-19-related public health issue.

The researchers said that tobacco and alcohol abuse are the second- and ninth-largest contributors to global deaths. These abuses cause about eight million deaths each year worldwide.

Published on March 02, 2021

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