Smoking Bans

SMOKING BANS DON’T REDUCE SMOKING BUT THEY DO MAKE SMOKERS HAPPIER

Smokers who say they oppose smoking bans typically report an increase in life satisfaction once the ban has begun. They are also less opposed to a ban once they realise the benefits. But smoking bans do not seem to reduce smoking.

These are among the findings of research on the effect of smoking bans in the US, presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference. The study by Abel Brodeur looks at the effect of more than 350 smoking bans in the US over the last two decades – including bans in the workplace and in public; and at the municipality, county and state level.

To gauge the effect on the lifestyles of millions of Americans, the study analyses data from two sources: the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System; and the DDB Needham Life Style Survey. Surprisingly, the author finds no indication that smoking bans decrease the prevalence of smoking in the US.

But smoking bans do change the perceptions that smokers have about themselves and about smoking policy. Smokers who do not quit are more satisfied with their lives once a public smoking ban is implemented.

This result is surprising since smokers are typically not in favour of smoking bans. It is only once they are exposed to a public smoking ban that smokers become less opposed to such policies. The evidence suggests that smokers adapt to smoking bans, perhaps realising that public smoking bans are actually not so bad.

The introduction of a smoking ban may also change smokers’ self-perceptions. The author argues that if smokers report lower levels of wellbeing because they think that they annoy non-smokers, then smoking bans would increase their life satisfaction. Smokers may feel more secure knowing that non-smokers can go to public places without being exposed to their second-hand smoke.

The author concludes:

‘My results lend support to the idea that smokers adapt to policies and change their preferences over time.

‘In this context, it would be interesting for a government to include a sunset clause when implementing smoking policies.

'At the end of the day, we get used to policies and this is true also for the addicted.’

More…

Smokers are usually not in favour of smoking bans in bars, restaurants and workplaces. Yet, once they are exposed to a public smoking ban, they are less opposed to those policies and are more likely to be satisfied with their life. These are among the findings of a study by Abel Brodeur, presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference.

The researcher relies on more than 350 smoking bans at the municipality, county and state levels in the United States implemented over the last 20 years. His study analyses the impacts of smoking bans on millions of Americans answering questions from two data sets, the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System and the DDB Needham Life Style Survey.

Surprisingly, the author finds no indication that smoking bans decrease the prevalence of smoking in America. Public and workplace smoking bans are not statistically related to smoking behaviour. On the other hand, smoking bans change the perception that smokers have about themselves and smoking policies.

The central finding of this research is that smokers who do not quit are more satisfied with their life once a public smoking ban is implemented. This result is surprising since smokers do not favour the implementation of smoking bans. It is only once they are exposed to a public smoking ban that smokers become less opposed to those policies.

The evidence suggests that smokers adapt to smoking bans since smokers are really unsatisfied with their lives a few months before the implementation and more satisfied afterwards. This finding indicates that smokers are not happy when the law is discussed and subsequently adopted. But they then realise that public smoking bans are actually not so bad and start to agree that it was a good idea to implement a ban.

The introduction of a smoking ban may have changed smokers’ self-perception. If smokers report lower levels of wellbeing because they think that they annoy non-smokers, then smoking bans would increase their life satisfaction. Smokers feel more justified in their behaviour now that non-smokers may go in public places without being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The results lend support to the idea that smokers adapt to policies and change their preferences over time. In this context, it would be interesting for a government to include a sunset clause when implementing smoking policies. At the end of the day, we get used to policies and this is true also for the addicted.

ENDS


Contact:

Abel Brodeur, +44 (0) 7436 908179 (abel.brodeur@parisschoolofeconomics.eu)

RES media consultant Romesh Vaitilingam:
+44 (0) 7768 661095
romesh@vaitilingam.com
@econromesh

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