By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Young people who live in areas with smoking bans are less likely to ever smoke, and young males who are light smokers who live in these areas are more likely to give it up altogether if a ban is imposed, according to a new study.
“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,”Mike Vuolo, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said in the news release.
Kentucky's teen smoking rate is 17 percent and its adult smoking rate is 26 percent. About one-third of the state and 35 percent of the state's school districts are covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws.
The study found that young males who were light smokers before a smoking ban was instituted were more likely to stop smoking cigarettes after a ban went into effect. Their probability of smoking dropped to 13 percent in areas with a ban from 19 percent in areas without a ban.
“There’s a lot of evidence that casual, social smokers are influenced by their environment,” Vuolo said. “If they can’t smoke inside with their friends at a restaurant or bar, they may choose not to smoke at all.”
However, smoking bans did not seem to discourage tobacco use among women, whose probability of smoking remained the same, 11 percent, in areas both with or without a ban. The researchers were unable to explain this result, but noted that the women in the study already smoked less than the men.
Regardless of gender, the study found that areas with long-standing smoking bans prevented light smokers from becoming heavy smokers, Vuolo said.
The study also found that smokers who lived in areas without bans were not likely to stop smoking and that smoking bans didn't work to reduce or end smoking for those who smoked more than a pack a day when the bans began.
“This study isolates the effects of smoking bans alongside multiple types of tobacco policy,” Brian Kelly, co-author of the study and director of Purdue's Center for Research on Young People's Health, said. “Ultimately, it identifies smoking bans as the most highly effective policy tool for lawmakers who wish to reduce smoking among young people.”
The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, included data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. It was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.