Smoking bans have helped cut childhood smoking uptake by a fifth
posted on: Feb 25, 2016
New research suggests smoking bans across the UK have reduced the uptake of smoking by teenagers by roughly a fifth.
While smoke-free legislation has been a great success for tobacco control, its impact on the smoking habits of adolescents was poorly understood.
Researchers at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, along with colleagues at the Welsh Government and the University of Stirling, looked at school-based surveys to see what effect comprehensive smoke-free policies has had on smoking uptake in adolescents.
The study, which is published today in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, discovered trends in the uptake of smoking amongst teenagers aged 13 and 15 differed substantially before and after the introduction of such legislation.
Dr Vittal Katikireddi, the lead author of the paper, said: “The results demonstrate a fairly big change in the number of young people starting smoking – particularly in girls.
“For 15 year old girls in England the smoking rate reduced from 24% to 19% after the legislation. Of course, the smoking bans are quite recent; the longer term impact could be even greater.”
Previous research has established that smoke-free legislation has led to many improvements in population health – including reductions in heart attack, stroke and asthma – however this new research demonstrates that comprehensive smoke-free legislation could help prevent future generations from taking up smoking.
The study, entitled ‘Has childhood smoking reduced following smoke-free public places legislation? A segmented regression analysis of cross-sectional UK school-based surveys’ was published today in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research (published by Oxford University Press) and was funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and Medical Research Council.
Comprehensive smoke-free legislation has been heralded as one of the great successes of tobacco control for a generation, with the four countries of the United Kingdom (UK) amongst the first jurisdictions worldwide to adopt it.
In addition to the direct health benefits, support for smoke- free legislation has been shown to increase following implementation and this has been accompanied by changing social norms about the acceptability both of smoking and of exposing others second-hand smoke
Legislation in the four UK countries is similar and broadly meets the definition of comprehensive smoke-free legislation as recommended by the WHO. Within the UK, it was implemented first in Scotland in March 2006, then in Wales and Northern Ireland in April 2007 and in England the following July. Many countries across the world are yet to introduce as stringent measures to prevent smoking in public places.