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Smoking habits in Greater Cincinnati affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jun 21, 2021

Tobacco use by Greater Cincinnati adults declined for more than 20 years, from 35% in 1999 to 19% in 2018. But the COVID-19 pandemic stalled progress to reduce tobacco use in our region. When asked how smoking habits changed during the pandemic, 23% of adult smokers in the region said they smoked more frequently, while 9% of adult smokers who had quit started smoking again, according to data from the Greater Cincinnati COVID-19 Health Issues Survey.  

The percentage of adult current smokers in Greater Cincinnati was stable between 2018 (19%) and 2020 (21%). Similarly, the national smoking rate remained stable from 2017 to 2019 at 14% after having declined from 23% in 1999. National data for 2020 is not yet available.  

These data, along with specific differences among certain groups, are reflected in this infographic

"Tobacco use is still one of the leading causes of preventable illness, premature death, lost productivity and increased health care costs," said Kelley Adcock, Director of Research and Evaluation at Interact for Health. "For years, progress in Greater Cincinnati to reduce tobacco use has lagged behind the nation. In addition, certain groups continue to bear a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related harm in the region. The Greater Cincinnati COVID-19 Health Issues Survey's findings reinforce that tobacco use is still a top health concern in our region, and provides an opportunity for us to take action."

To this end, Interact for Health released two requests for proposals for tobacco initiatives: 

  • Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Tobacco Use: Up to $300,000 will be available to fund projects to promote cessation among youth and adults in 20 counties around Cincinnati.  
  • Innovation to Reduce Tobacco Disparities: Up to $500,000 will be available to fund projects to pilot and spread promising programs and practices to reduce tobacco-related disparities. 

"While the extent of increased tobacco use in our region due to COVID-19 is not yet fully known, we do know that increased stress, isolation and financial burdens all contribute to changes in tobacco use," said Megan Folkerth, Senior Program Officer. "With this grant funding, we hope to support partners as they implement tobacco cessation programs, provide incentives to encourage quitting and implement targeted marketing efforts. We also want to reduce tobacco use among adults in the region who have historically used at higher rates—including people with lower incomes, people living in rural areas, African Americans, people with substance use disorder and the LGBTQ+ community—often due to social, environmental and policy factors."

The requests for proposals are available on our Funding Opportunities page.  

For those looking with help in quitting smoking, assistance is available by texting QUIT to 47848 or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. In addition, Quit Culture, a program supported by Interact for Health, is working to change the culture of smoking in Greater Cincinnati's African American communities. Learn more at  

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