Expert Commentary

Public smoking laws and environmental smoke exposure

2010 study from UC Irvine and Queen’s University examining the effects of public-place smoking laws on smoking prevalence and second-hand smoke exposure.

Smoking bans have been found to reduce heart attacks, but how such laws bring about other improved health outcomes is less clear. Little is known about the degree to which bans reduce second-hand smoke exposure, for example.

A 2010 paper by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and Queen’s University, Canada, “Public-Place Smoking Laws and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) in Public Places,” seeks to bridge this gap. Using data from Canada, the study examines the effects of smoking laws on smoking prevalence and second-hand smoke exposure, and thus, the broader public health implications of smoking laws.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Smoking laws reduced the probability of second-hand smoke exposure in a restaurant by 75% relative to a mean exposure rate of 54% in 2005.
  • Laws reduced second-hand smoke exposure inside a bar was 64% relative to a mean exposure rate of 37.6% in 2005.
  • From 2000 to 2008, public-place second-hand smoke exposure declined from 23% to 11%.  Public-place smoking laws could account for 7.3% of the reduction.
  • While smoking bans reduce second-hand smoke exposure in public places, they have no significant effect in reducing smoking intensity.

While the researchers note that the study has limitations — for example, the data is self-reported — they conclude that its findings suggest that public-place smoking bans have the potential to improve public health.

Tags: medicine, safety

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