Increasing Smoking Bans Improves Health

December 2012

Smoking bans have become increasingly prevalent in public spaces including workplaces, bars, and restaurants. In a recent article in USA Today, Liz Szabo highlighted findings from several studies that describe the contribution of these policies toward significant health improvements. A study published in Circulation found that smoking bans were associated with a significant decrease in hospitalizations, including a 15 percent reduction for hospitalizations due to heart attacks, 16 percent for strokes, and 24 percent for respiratory diseases. Additionally, another study published in the Archives in Internal Medicine found that more comprehensive smoking policies had a greater impact. Banning smoking in restaurants alone in 2002 in Olmsted County, MN produced no statistically significant change in heart attack rates. However, when that same ban was extended in 2007 to include all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, heart attacks fell by 33 percent. In fact, these health improvements were seen in communities where overall health was actually declining (as evidenced by increasing rates of obesity and diabetes). It is hypothesized that smoking bans encourage quitting smoking or smoking less, and protect non-smokers from harmful secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can aggravate heart disease in non-smokers and causes approximately 46,000 non-smoker deaths annually.

HCFO researcher Kathleen Adams found similar health improvements in prenatal women. In a paper published in the July 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Adams examined the prevalence of smoking in pregnant women, and the presence of key state health policies related to smoking, including smoking bans. Smoking has long been linked with poor birth outcomes and long term negative health effects for both mothers and children. Adams and her team found that implementation of full smoking bans in private workplaces was associated with an approximately 4.5 percent increase in smoking cessation by the third trimester. These findings were particularly significant in younger women (aged < 20 years). This age group showed a 13 percent increase in quitting by the third trimester when a full smoking ban was in place. 

Findings from the studies cited in the USA Today article, and the HCFO-funded analysis underscore the importance of implementing strong, wide-spread policies to ensure the greatest success.

For more information on Dr. Adams’ HCFO-funded work, please visit the HCFO website