Public smoking bans 'drive down home smoking'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Public smoking bans may also encourage smokers to light up less often at home, according to new European research.

The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, challenges the argument commonly put forward by opponents of smoke-free legislation that such bans could encourage more smoking at home.

The research looked a survey data from over 4,600 smokers in Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands before and after smoke-free legislation came into force. Pre-ban survey results from 1,080 UK smokers (excluding Scotland) were used as a comparison.

The surveys, which were conducted between 2003/4 and 2008/9, depending on when bans took effect, found that before a ban came into force, most smokers had at least partial restrictions on smoking at home.

But after legislation came into force the percentage of smokers who completely banned smoking at home increased significantly in all countries, rising by 25 per cent in Ireland, 17 per cent in France, 38 per cent in Germany and 28 per cent in the Netherlands by the time of the second survey.

Although the percentage of smokers who implemented a home smoking ban also rose in the UK comparison group, the analysis showed that the change was greater in countries where smoke-free legislation was introduced between the two surveys.

Home smoking bans were more likely to be adopted when the smoker planned to quit smoking, when there was a birth of a child, and among those smokers who supported a smoking ban in bars.

"Opponents of workplace or public smoking bans have argued that smoke-free policies-albeit intended to protect non-smokers from tobacco smoke-could lead to displacement of smoking into the home and hence even increase the second hand smoke exposure of non-smoking family members and, most importantly, children," write the authors.

In fact, the authors continue, the findings support the 'social diffusion hypothesis' - that banning smoking in public places "may stimulate smokers to establish total smoking bans in their homes."

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "It's reassuring to see that smokefree laws haven't driven smokers to light up more often at home. There are very real benefits to these laws. Other research has shown that making public spaces and workplaces smokefree leads to a reduction in the number of heart attacks and that smokefree pubs and bars result in immediate health benefits for those who work in them.

"The next step is to see the end of tobacco displays in shops. Putting tobacco out of sight helps keep it out of mind. Half of all long term smokers die from their addiction so we need to do more to help smokers to quit. And we must work to stop new smokers from starting, especially as 80 per cent are under 19."

Copyright Press Association 2012

References

  • Mons, U. et al. (2012). Impact of national smoke-free legislation on home smoking bans: findings from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project Europe Surveys Tobacco Control DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050131