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Alcohol and tobacco sales rose up in early pandemic times. Pixabay

In a finding that shows that the pandemic may also have harmful indirect consequences, a new study has found that alcohol and tobacco sales in the US rose during the early months of Covid-19. From April-June 2020, sales of these substances increased 34 percent and 13 percent respectively when compared to the same months in 2019, said the study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

“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 of the study Brian Lee from Keck Medicine and the University of Southern California Institute for Addiction Science in the US. Tobacco and alcohol abuse are the second and ninth-largest contributors to global deaths, causing some eight million deaths each year worldwide.

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Lee and his colleagues decided to study alcohol and tobacco purchasing patterns after noticing that in 2020, Keck Hospital of USC admissions for alcohol-associated liver disease (cirrhosis or alcoholic hepatitis) were up approximately 30 percent compared to the year before. Some patients also admitted to using alcohol to handle pandemic-related stress.

Tobacco sales increased in households. Pixabay

The doctors wondered if the trend they were witnessing locally was also happening nationally. And if one substance was being abused, they wondered if a second — tobacco — might be as well. Seeking national data, they turned to the Nielsen National Consumer Panel, which tracks the spending habits of approximately 70,000 households in the US over time and is designed to be nationally representative.

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People are given a handheld scanner or use a smartphone app to scan products at stores to report their purchases. Researchers compared alcohol and tobacco sales between the months of April-June in 2020 with the same time period in 2019. When they calculated their results, they found that from 2019 to 2020, tobacco sales increased in households across all demographics, and alcohol sales increased across nearly all demographics as well.

Sales increases for both substances were the highest, however, among younger adults, ethnic minorities, those with younger children and/or large families, and those with higher incomes. (IANS/SP)


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