In Italy, Millions Of People Started Buying More Cigarettes
When Italy's lockdown began, the government shut down everything except essential businesses like supermarkets, pharmacies, and ... uh ... tobacco shops? That's right; the government apparently felt cigarettes were essential enough to everyday people. That turned out to be a sadly accurate call, too, because lines for cigarettes sometimes got longer than ones for groceries. The data tells us the same thing: in the lockdown, lots of Italians took up smoking or started smoking way more: 3.9 million of them (roughly the population of L.A.), to be exact.
Smoking is, of course, super dangerous right now. Epidemiologists think China's and Italy's high rates of smoking might have made the outbreaks there worse, which would make a lot of sense. Smoking whittles down cilia, the hair-like bits of tissue in your lungs that sweep away mucus and debris, and COVID can damage those too -- so if you smoke, you're giving a COVID infection a head start.
Olena Yakobchuk/ShutterstockIt's like running into the school bully after punching yourself.
To be fair to Italy, there's been a small rise in cigarette buying worldwide, but that's probably mainly due to stockpiling. Also, it's worth noting that about 630,000 Italians used the pandemic as an opportunity to quit smoking -- which is great, of course, but that's not even a fifth of the number of people who are smoking more. So, something odd is going on.
What made people take up a lung-wrecking habit at a time when you need your lungs un-wrecked more than ever? In short, boredom and coolness. Part of the story is that there's just not a whole lot to do in the lockdown, so why not light up? Of course, that doesn't explain why other countries aren't smoking way more, and for that, we have to look at how Italy's culture treats smoking. When cigarettes initially showed up, they were pretty expensive, so smoking was as much a sign of wealth as, say, designer clothes -- and that's how Italian movies always portrayed it. For decades, they showed smoking as the cool, expensive hobby of rich and effortlessly elegant people.
That's what probably made sure that, even though other countries eventually started seeing it as an unhealthy addiction for poor people, Italy didn't. So if you're stuck at home with nothing to do, you might as well start doing something that makes you look cool and a bit high-class, right? Yes, it might kill you, and will definitely make you smell, but your last days will be glamorous (minus the hacking).
Seeds Haven't Been Selling This Fast Since The Great Depression
While most of us spent quarantine watching Netflix and planting herbs in Animal Crossing, tons of people spent it planting herbs in real life. (While still watching Netflix because watching plants is boring after 2 minutes.) And we mean tons, because the seed industry apparently hasn't seen this level of demand since the Great Depression. You might think that this is the result of people wanting to grow their own food, but no -- all kinds of seeds are flying off the shelves. It seems the pandemic made people want to grow flowers, fruits, vegetables, and anything else they can get their hands on.