Smoking Bans: An Effective Way to Protect Cigarette Smokers and Non-smokers?

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Will smoking bans be an effective means of limiting cigarette smoke? Image by solrac_gi_2nd

Do you live in a state or town that bans public smoking? Many states, municipalities and campuses have passed smoking bans.  Or maybe your family is one of the families that has implemented total or partial smoking bans at home?

Although the initial purpose of a smoking ban may be to protect non-smokers, researchers Dr. Rong W. Zablocki  of the University of California and colleagues, including  Wael K. Al-Delaimy from San Diego State University, investigated whether smoking bans help smokers cut back, or even quit smoking altogether.

The Smoking Ban Study Design-A Weighted Survey

The researchers drew individuals from the California longitudinal smoker’s survey (CLSS) to interview.  Of an original group of 5530 smokers identified in 2009, the researchers followed up with  1718.  The responses of those 1718 were then weighted to match the California population at large.   In an exclusive interview with Decoded Science, Al-Delaimy explained the concept of weighting  the sample, “we increase the representation of certain age groups, genders, education status, or ethnicity in our study population so that they better match the actual percentages in California rather than survey every Californian (which is not possible).”

Researchers asked questions such as “Is smoking allowed in outdoor restaurant dining areas?” and “Is smoking allowed on beaches?” to determine what the respondent’s perception was regarding the bans placed on smoking in the community. They also asked questions about the home environment, including whether there was a complete or partial ban on smoking in some areas of the home.

The Results of Smoking Bans-Real or Perceived

68.9% of smokers reported that their family completely banned smoking in their home. Home smoking bans are more likely when children are present. Another 16.5% reported a partial home-ban, where smoking was allowed in a designated area. In the home, a partial ban was not associated with less smoking, but a total ban on smoking in the home was effective in reducing smoking. Women and seniors were more likely to report reduced smoking resulting from a home smoking ban.

But more intriguing, even perceived bans in public areas were associated with reduced amounts of smoking, particularly for men. 75.3% of respondents report believing there was a public ban on smoking. The study reports, “smokers reporting a complete/partial city smoking ban had a significantly higher rate of smoking reduction compared to those reporting no city smoking ban.”  Those reporting a city ban also had a “higher rate of quit attempts.”

Al-Delaimy is not certain why men and women react differently to the perception of public bans and calls for further study, but speculates that women may already be “avoiding smoking in public places”  so that “having a ban does not impact their quitting, while men were more likely influenced by the actual implementation of the ban.”

The Implications of Increasing Smoking Bans

Al-Delaimy recaps the findings: “Smoking bans work and do protect the nonsmokers, but as an added bonus, on the longer run it also protects the smoker from the harms of smoking by helping him/her quit. Furthermore, this effect was known to be influential through home bans, now we are finding…the general public and outdoor places or city-wide bans [to be influential.]’  Communities concerned about the public’s health have another reason to ban public smoking-to help smoker’s quit.

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