It seems like a long time ago now, but when the 2004 smoking ban in public places was first proposed, one of the fiercest arguments against it was that more people would resort to lighting up at home.
Anti-ban campaigners warned this would lead to children in particular being exposed to more harmful second-hand smoke. But a new study has confirmed what many of us suspected — the ban has prompted people to smoke less in the home.
The authors base their findings on two waves of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project) Europe Surveys.
These were conducted before and after legislation banning smoking in public places had come into force in Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and in the UK, excluding Scotland.
It found that after the new laws came into force the percentage of smokers who banned smoking at home rose significantly in all countries and although Ireland was not as good as Germany or the Netherlands, the numbers with a no-smoking rule in their own houses increased by 25pc here.
The house ban on smoking increased by 38pc in Germany and 28pc in the Netherlands and 17pc in France, according to the results.
The surveys, which were carried out between 2003/4 and 2008/9, depending on when bans took effect and involved involved 4,634 smokers.
The findings published in the journal ‘Tobacco Control’ highlighted how even before the ban was introduced most smokers had self-imposed partial restrictions on smoking at home, particularly in France and Germany.
This was especially the case if young children were part of the household.
It found that a ban on in-house smoking was imposed if smokers planned to quit the habit, when a baby was born and when the smoker supported bans in pubs.
The German study pointed out: “Opponents of workplace or public smoking bans have argued that smoke-free policies — albeit intended to protect non-smokers from tobacco smoke — could lead to displacement of smoking into the home and hence even increase the second-hand smoke exposure of non-smoking family members and, most importantly, children.
“In fact, the findings support the social diffusion hypothesis — that banning smoking in public places may stimulate smokers to establish total smoking bans in their homes,” they added.
Other research has revealed how the ban on smoking in offices and workplaces has led to a reduction in the number of heart attacks and that smoke-free pubs and venues have immediate health benefits for staff.
By EILISH O’REGAN
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