The benefits of smokefree policies
Smokefree policies protect health. Exposure to secondhand smoke falls when they are introduced.
Studies measuring substances present in tobacco smoke, such as particles and nicotine, show that people are exposed to substantial levels of pollution when smoking is permitted. Levels of hazardous substances in indoor places where smoking is permitted are higher than those found in closed motor garages, along busy roadways, and during firestorms.1 In smoke-filled rooms, pollution levels can reach 50 times those in a busy road tunnel.2
Studies also show that when smoking is permitted, people are exposed to significant levels of substances present in secondhand smoke and absorbed by the body, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide.
Introduction of smokefree policies cuts the levels of these substances present in the air and decreases the levels of the substances absorbed by people. After implementing smokefree laws in Ireland, levels of particles in bars dropped by up to 83%. The level of carbon monoxide in barworkers' breath also decreased by 45%.3
Smokefree policies improve health. For example:
- In California, implementing a law making all bars smokefree resulted in measurable improvement in bartenders' health, with workers reporting fewer breathing problems.4
- When all workplaces in the Republic of Ireland were made smokefree by law, bar workers there were protected from secondhand smoke. A year later, a study showed that their lung health had improved significantly. In contrast, the lung health of their colleagues in Northern Ireland, where smoking was still permitted in bars, remained the same.5
- Lung cancer rates declined six times faster in California than in states in the USA without smokefree laws.6
- Smokefree laws have been associated with significant reductions in heart disease.7
Smokefree policies can also benefit smokers. Smokefree workplaces:
- help motivate smokers to quit
- help those attempting to stop smoking to persevere
- reduce overall tobacco consumption among those who continue to smoke
Smokefree places help the many smokers who want to quit, making it easier for them to stop and to stay stopped.8
The World Bank states that smoking restrictions can reduce overall tobacco consumption by between four and ten per cent.9 In addition, smokefree workplaces result in a 10 per cent decrease in the number of smokers, and reduce tobacco consumption among those who continue to smoke by 14 per cent.
A review of evidence from Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States of America concluded that smokefree workplaces reduce overall cigarette consumption by 29%. On average, smoking rates were reduced by 3.8%, and those who continued to smoke consumed on average three fewer cigarettes a day.10
Countries that have implemented 100% smokefree laws have seen a reduction in overall tobacco sales. For example, tobacco consumption has decreased in Ireland, Italy, and Norway. Moreover, several countries have reported that the introducing smokefree policies has been linked to an increase in calls to 'stop smoking' helplines.
There is some evidence that smokefree policies may lessen the likelihood of young people becoming addicted to tobacco. Studies comparing smokefree communities to those without such laws show that rates of smoking among young people are up to one-sixth lower in smokefree places, with young people consuming only half the number of cigarettes as those in places without such laws.11
When fewer adults smoke, children's exposure to secondhand smoke is reduced.12
There is also some evidence to suggest that smokefree policies may be linked to an increase in smokefree homes. For example, in Australia the introduction of smokefree workplace laws in the 1990s was accompanied by a steep rise in the proportion of adults avoiding exposing children to secondhand smoke in the home. A similar effect has been in the UK, USA, and Canada.13
Clean air policies also have economic benefits. The United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration estimates that clean air increases productivity by three per cent.14
Finally, workplaces where smoking is permitted may experience higher insurance premiums, higher redecoration and cleaning costs, and an increased risk of fire. The World Bank notes that the benefits of making workplaces smokefree far outweigh the costs.
Smoke-free workplaces at a glance The World Bank Group.
MacLeod M. Helpline swamped by smokers trying to quit ahead of ban. The Scotsman 2005. Available online at: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=645282005
(1) Smoking more toxic than car fumes. BBC News; 2004. Available online at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3590578.stm
Invernizzi G, Ruprecht A, Mazza R, Rossetti E, Sasco A, Nardini S, et al. Particulate matter from tobacco versus diesel car exhaust: an educational perspective. Tobacco Control 2004;13:219-221. Available online at: http://tc.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/3/219?etoc
(2) New York City Department of Finance, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City Department of Small Business Services, New York City Economic Development Corporation. The state of smoke-free New York City: a one-year review. 2004. Available from: www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/smoke/sfaa-2004report.pdf
Smokers lose an old alibi. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2004;61:929. Available online at: http://oem.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/61/11/929
(3) Office of Tobacco Control website. www.otc.ie
(4) Eisner M, Smith A, Blanc P. Bartenders' respiratory health after establishment of smoke-free bars and taverns. JAMA 1998;280:1909-14.
(5) Allwright S, Paul G, Greiner B, Mullally BJ, Pursell L, Kelly A, et al. Legislation for smoke-free workplaces and health of bar workers in Ireland: before and after study. BMJ 2005;331:1117.
(6) California Department of Health Services, Tobacco Control Section. California tobacco control update. California Department of Health Services; 2002.
(7) Sargent RP, Shepard RM, Glantz SA. Reduced incidence of admissions for myocardial infarction associated with public smoking ban: before and after study. BMJ 2004;328:977-980.
(8) Longo DR, Johnson JC, Kruse RL, Brownson RC, Hewett JE. A prospective investigation of the impact of smoking bans on tobacco cessation and relapse. Tobacco Control 2001;10:267-72.
(9) Curbing the epidemic. Governments and the economics of tobacco control. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 1999. Available online at www1.worldbank.org/tobacco/reports.htm
(10) Fichtenberg CM, Glantz SA. Effect of smoke-free workplaces on smoking behaviour: systematic review. BMJ 2002;325:188.
(11) Wakefield MA, Chaloupka FJ, Kaufman NJ, Orleans CT, Barker DC, Ruel EE. Effect of restrictions on smoking at home, at school, and in public places on teenage smoking: cross sectional study. BMJ 2000;321:333-337.
(12) Jarvis MJ, Goddard E, Higgins V, Feyerabent C, Bryant A, Cook DG. Children's exposure to passive smoking in England since the 1980s: cotinine evidence from population survey. BMJ 2000;321:343-5.
(13) Borland R, Mullins R, Trotter L, White V. Trends in environmental tobacco smoke restrictions in the home in Victoria, Australia. Tobacco Control 1999;8:266-271. Available online at: http://tc.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/8/3/266
(14) United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Indoor Air Quality 1994; 59:15968-16039.