Saturday, December 19, 2015

Effect of Smoke-Free Laws On Youth Smoking Behaviors

Almost every organ of the body can be harmed by smoking, which will cause many diseases including heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). More importantly, smoking will not only harm smokers themselves but also people around them.

Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, as shown in the figures for 2014 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 42,000 of these deaths came from secondhand smoke exposure. That is why governments around the world have tried all means to curb smoking. One way to do this is to implement smoke-free laws.

Smoke-free laws for public spaces initially aimed to prevent secondhand smoke exposure. But a 11-year study indicated that smoke-free laws in workplaces were linked to a lower likelihood that adolescents and young adults would start to smoke, and smoke-free bar laws were associated with fewer days of smoking for youth who had already started. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California and published online September 8, 2015 in journal ‘JAMA Pediatrics’. The study was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1997 to 2007 was used to analyze the effect of smoke-free laws on individual smoking behaviors of 4,098 teens and young adults who aged between 12 and 18.

The youth were asked whether they had ever smoked in 1997, and in later years were asked whether they had smoked since the last interview. Those who were smokers reported on how many of the previous 30 days they had smoked. The answers obtained were compared to the state level cigarette taxes, and smoke-free laws at the state, county and city levels.

It seemed that smoke-free bar laws did not affect whether or not the youth would start smoking, but smoke-free workplace laws lowered the odds of smoking initiation by 34 percent. Taxes were linked to a lower percentage of new smokers but not current smokers among adolescents and young adults. Each 10-cent increase in cigarette taxes would decrease the likelihood that a youth would start smoking by 3.5 percent. Meanwhile, youths living in areas with 100 percent smoke-free bar laws were 20 percent less likely to be smokers and current smokers smoked 15 percent fewer days per month than those not covered by such laws.

There has been conflict between groups pushing for smoke-free laws and those concerned with youth smoking initiation. But the new findings indicated that there is really no conflict: Smoke free policies can be prevention policies too! According to researchers, policymakers should combine smoke-free laws and cigarette taxes so as to have the maximum effect.

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