Ever wonder if bans against smoking in bars and restaurants have actually made a difference?
According to a new study, they have.
Smoking bans in U.S. eateries appear to have helped reduce overall smoking rates, especially among people with higher levels of education, the researchers reported.
The study authors analyzed 25 years of data on young and middle-aged smokers in the United States. Among people with at least a bachelor's degree, the number who smoked fell by about 20 percent if they lived in areas that don't allow smoking in bars and restaurants.
Such bans were also linked to a reduced risk of someone becoming a heavy smoker, defined as having 10 or more cigarettes a day.
The bans were less likely to be tied to reduced smoking among those with lower levels of education. However, low-income people in the study were 15 percent more likely to try to quit smoking if they lived in an area that banned smoking in bars and restaurants.
"An important marker of smoking cessation success is quit attempts," said study co-author Amy Auchincloss, an associate professor at Drexel University's School of Public Health, in Philadelphia. "On average, it takes somewhere between eight and 14 attempts to finally quit."
The smoking bans may be a step in the right direction, the researchers suggested in the report published online Jan. 11 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
However, the study couldn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between indoor smoking bans and reduced smoking rates.
Commenting in a journal news release, study co-author Stephanie Mayne said, "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."
However, "more needs to be done to help translate it into successful smoking cessation," added Mayne, a postdoctoral fellow at the Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago.
The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.
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