Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. In addition to increasing the risk of developing several types of cancer, smoking is responsible for one in every three deaths due to cardiovascular disease. Thankfully, the government’s prevention efforts seem to be working.
According to a study published in the September 2016 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers at the Ohio State University have found that smoking bans across the country have led people in those areas to give up—or never take up—cigarettes.
In particular, the study found that young males who were light smokers before a smoking ban was instituted in their area were more likely to give up cigarettes after a ban went into effect. Smokers who lived in areas where there was never a ban weren't likely to drop their cigarette habit.
Results showed that the probability of a young man smoking in the last 30 days was 19 percent for those living in an area without a ban, but only 13 percent for those who live in an area with a ban.
Interestingly, the bans had little impact on the smoking habits of young women. Their probably of smoking—11 percent—was the same regardless of where they lived.
While other studies have focused on how smoking bans affect smoking rates in areas where they are instituted, this is the first national study to show how the bans affect individual smokers, said Mike Vuolo, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, which followed 4,341 people from 487 cities. Participants ranging in age from 19 to 31 were interviewed annually from 2004 to 2011.
Data on city-level smoking bans came from the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation (ANRF) tobacco policy database.
The database told the researchers which participants lived in cities with a comprehensive smoking ban, which means that workplaces, bars and restaurants are 100 percent tobacco free with no indoor exceptions.
The bans themselves increased tremendously over the period of time researchers collected data. From 2004 to 2011, the percentage of participants living in a city with a comprehensive ban increased from 14.9 percent to 58.7 percent.
"We found that the implementation of a smoking ban reduces the odds that a young person in that location will smoke at all over time. In other words, young people are less likely to smoke once a smoking ban goes into effect," Vuolo said.
However, a clear distinction was drawn between heavy and light smokers. Those participants who smoked more than a pack a day before the ban went into effect saw no real change in their smoking habits as a result of the ban.
"Ultimately, it identifies smoking bans as the most highly effective policy tool for lawmakers who wish to reduce smoking among young people,” Brian Kelly, professor of sociology at Purdue University and director of Purdue's Center for Research on Young People's Health, said in a statement.