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Smoke-Free Restaurant Laws Impact Teen Smoking

Young people who lived in towns with regulations that banned smoking in restaurants were 40 percent less likely to become regular smokers than those in communities with no regulations or weak ones, according to a report in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The Massachusetts study demonstrates that environmental strategies, such as laws that ban smoking, can be effective in addressing alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Boston University School of Public Health researchers studied 3,834 Massachusetts youths who were age 12 to 17, following them for four years to see which ones became smokers and which ones didn’t. Overall, 9.3 percent of the participants became established smokers over the study period. Of the ones who became smokers, 9.6 percent lived in towns with weak restaurant smoking regulations (where smoking is restricted to designated areas or not restricted at all), 9.8 percent lived in towns with medium regulations (smoking is restricted to ventilated areas, or no smoking is allowed but variations are permitted) and 7.9 percent lived in towns with strong regulations (complete smoking bans).

The researchers note that smoking bans may influence youth by reducing their exposure to smokers in public places and by altering the perceived social acceptability of smoking. “When kids grow up in an environment where they don’t see smoking, they are going to think it’s not socially acceptable. If they perceive a lot of other people are smoking, they think it’s the norm,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, of Boston University School of Public Health, and the study’s lead author, in an Associated Press article.

The study also found that having a smoker as a parent or a close friend was a factor in predicting whether children experiment with cigarettes. However, strong bans had a bigger influence on whether smoking grew into a habit, reducing their chances of becoming smokers by 40 percent.

“If it represents a true effect, the observed 40 percent reduction in the odds of progression to established smoking in towns with local restaurant smoking bans would suggest that smoke-free policies may be the most effective intervention available to reduce youth smoking,” noted the authors in the study.

(Taken from Coalitions Online at www.cadca.org)

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