A qualitative study on the influence of COVID-19 on smoking behaviors through changing social and physical contexts

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Health education research




Globally, COVID-19 has been a major societal stressor and disrupted social and physical environments for many. Elucidating mechanisms through which societal disruptions influence smoking behavior has implications for future tobacco control efforts. Qualitative interviews were conducted among 38 adults who smoked combustible cigarettes in 2020 and 2021. The majority were women (75.7%), identified as Black (56.8%), were employed (61.3%), had a smoke-free home (66.7%) and lived in a small metro or rural (79.0%) county, primarily in rural southwest Georgia. Participants reported more time at home, increased isolation and less socializing, changed work and financial situations and altered household and family contexts. The vast majority of participants smoked more at some point during the pandemic with about half of these continuing to smoke more at the time of the interview. More time at home, multiple sources of stress and boredom were the main reasons for increased smoking. Decreases in smoking were attributed to financial strain, smoke-free home rules and nonsmoking family members, concerns about COVID-19 and less socializing with friends who smoke. Future tobacco control efforts during societal stressors such as pandemics should take into account specific psychosocial and environmental influences in attempts to minimize negative changes to smoking patterns.


Prevention and Community Health