The latest estimates prepared by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), published in the report released on 25 June, indicate that 11.7 percent of deaths that occurred in 2019 in Portugal were due to tobacco.

Of the 13,559 deaths recorded, most were men (10,815), the report said, estimating that 1,771 deaths resulted from exposure to environmental smoke (561 from cardiovascular diseases, 425 for respiratory infections, 312 for chronic respiratory disease, 242 for type 2 diabetes mellitus and 220 from cancer).

The highest percentage of tobacco-attributable deaths was recorded in the 50 to 69 age group (24.8 percent).

The report of the National Programme for the Prevention of Tobacco Control (PNPCT) cites data from the Regional Health Administrations (ARS) indicating that in 2020, 6,129 users were seen in first smoking cessation consultations, which represented a relative decrease of 51.7 percent compared to the previous year.

"Some consultations only maintained the follow-up of users already enrolled, not accepting first-time users," he stresses.

In the same year, 25,486 intensive support consultations for smoking cessation were held in Agrupamento de Centros de Saíde (ACES) and hospital services, a 39.2 percent drop compared to 2019.

In the 152 consultation venues that continued to operate in 2020, the service was conducted face-to-face in 62.8 percent of the consultations carried out, following the usual patterns, with the rest being carried out by remote means, such as videoconferencing or telephone.

In view of these data, the DGS concludes that "the pandemic situation has decreased both the demand for help in smoking cessation and the response capacity of the NHS, particularly at the PHC [primary health care] level, due to the mobilisation of professionals in these consultations for the response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic".

Regarding prevention work at local level, 268 structured smoking prevention initiatives targeting the community were carried out in 2019.

A total of 192,013 people were covered, including 86,523 school-age children and youth, the report states, stressing that "due to the pandemic situation, in 2020, there was a marked decrease in the number of activities carried out (54) and population covered (14,651 people, including 2616 of school age).

The Directorate-General for Health adds, in a statement, that although the Covid-19 pandemic has had "a significant impact translated by the reduction in the number of sites and consultations for smoking cessation, quitting smoking with behavioural support and pharmacological treatment significantly increases the success of attempts.

For the next two years, the DGS defines in its strategic guidelines "the implementation of massive communication campaigns, comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship or even support for smoking cessation, namely through brief counselling in primary health care or the use of SNS 24".