Bans against smoking in restaurants and bars work, at least for wealthier, richer people, according to a new study of Americans over 25 years.
The Northwestern University study found that everyone living in such areas was more likely to attempt to quit smoking, but poorer people were less likely to give up cigarettes for good.
As of July, only 25 states have banned smoking in all indoor workplaces, such as restaurants and bars, in the US, where about 15 percent of adults still smoke.
The study authors wrote that while these bans are beneficial, more public health efforts need to be made before the effects benefit all socioeconomic classes.
Bans against smoking in bars and restaurants led to fewer rich, well-educated smokers in areas where they were in effect, but poorer people’s habits did not change
People living below the poverty line continue to smoke nearly twice as long as those with better incomes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Less educated and poorer people are also more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke in places like restaurants and bars, leading to 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease alone annually.
In the new study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers compared 25 years of health data to information about geographical locations of smoking bans.
Once a ban was introduced, smoking became about 20 percent less common among people with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.
The same group saw a reduction in heavy smoking, with fewer people smoking half a pack or more cigarettes a day.
For those in the poorest group in the study, living in an area where indoor smoking was banned was linked to 15 percent more attempts to quit.
‘An important marker of smoking cessation success is quit attempts,’ explained study co-author Dr Amy Auchincloss associate professor in Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.
‘On average, it takes somewhere between eight and 14 attempts to finally quit,’ she added.
The increase in quit-attempts suggested to the researchers that smoking bans were a start, but by no means a solution.
In terms of long-term effects, bans did not change smoking habits for those with a high school level of education or lower.
The clear inequalities in the effects of smoking bans ‘highlight the need for a multi-pronged approach — including tobacco taxes and ensuring that tobacco companies do not promote their products to vulnerable populations – as well as providing free smoking cessation counseling and pharmacotherapy,’ Dr Auchincloss said.
These findings come just a week after tobacco giant Philip Morris International announced it’s resolution to ‘quit cigarettes,’ and ween itself of its biggest cash cow, a sentiment not echoed by the unaffiliated Philip Morris USA.
A study published earlier this week also found that three out of five smokers become hooked after just one cigarette.
‘Our results suggest that smoking bans may help start the process among people with lower socioeconomic status by making them more likely to try to quit smoking,’ said said one of the paper’s researchers, Stephanie Mayne, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
‘But that more needs to be done to help translate it into successful smoking cessation.’