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Fear of COVID-19 among nonsmokers and smokers/former smokers: Implications for health promotion practice

Blake T. Hilton, PsyD, Brandt J. Wiskur, PhD, Michael W. Brand, PhD, Julio I. Rojas, PhD, Raina D. Leckie, LCSW, Maria Trapp, PhD, Katrin Gaardbo Kuhn, PhD


Introduction: Fear of COVID-19 may differ for individuals with compromised health and those with unhealthy behaviors, placing them at greater risk. Based on previous analysis of academic medical center faculty and staff, the authors predicted that workers who were smokers/previous smokers would express the greater fear of COVID-19 relative to nonsmokers.

Methods: The present study used the Fear of COVID-19 Scale to assess fear among nonsmokers (n = 1,489) and smokers/previous smokers (n = 272) from a larger population of academic medical center members (N = 1,761). This study assessed nonsmokers’ and smokers/previous smokers’ demographic and background variables on Fear of COVID-19 scores.

Results: In this academic community, smokers/previous smokers had higher fear of COVID-19 scores than did nonsmokers (p < 0.05). Smokers/previous smokers differed from nonsmokers on three Fear of COVID-19 scale items (most afraid of COVID-19, fear of losing life, and physiological fear of COVID-19).

Discussion/conclusions: These results provide a better understanding of how fear of COVID-19 can differ based on one’s smoking status. These findings inform public health smoking cessation efforts aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality, both in response and secondary to COVID-19 exposure.



COVID-19, smoking, fear, anxiety, health promotions

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