Cigarette bans and high taxes both reduce smoking rates, but bans may have one important advantage, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that bans were most effective at limiting smoking among casual users — those who smoke less than a pack a day — while high taxes had the most impact on people who smoked more than a pack a day.
“Both taxes and bans have their place. But bans might stop casual smokers from becoming heavy tobacco users,” study author Mike Vuolo, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said in a university news release.
“If you think of casual smoking as the beginning of the path to addiction, then bans might be the way to go,” he added.
“There’s a lot of evidence that casual, social smokers are influenced by their environment. If they can’t smoke inside with their friends at a restaurant or bar, they may choose not to smoke at all,” Vuolo said.
The study included more than 4,300 people aged 19 to 31 in 487 cities who were interviewed every year between 2004 and 2011. The researchers found that combining smoking bans with high taxes on cigarettes didn’t reduce overall smoking rates more than either of the approaches alone.
The percentage of participants who lived in a city with a comprehensive smoking ban rose from almost 15 percent to almost 59 percent during the study period, and average taxes increased from 81 cents to $1.65 a pack.
People in cities with smoking bans were 21 percent less likely to be current smokers than those who lived in cities without bans, the investigators found.
The highest smoking rates were in cities with no smoking bans and low or no taxes on cigarettes, according to the study published online Dec. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.
The findings show that while smoking bans and high taxes are effective in different ways, they both help reduce smoking rates, Vuolo said.
“The worst case is not having bans or taxes,” he concluded.
The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.