Youth in towns with smoke-free restaurants less likely to become smokers

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Washington, May 6 : Young people living in towns where smoking is banned in restaurants are less likely to develop the habit, a study suggests.

The study led by Dr Michael Siegel, M.P.H., of Boston University School of Public Health analysed 3,834 Massachusetts youths aged 12 to 17 years in the first interview between 2001 and 2002

The researchers interviewed 2,791 participants after two years and 2,217 after four years.

The study showed that over the period 9.3 percent of the participants became established smokers including 9.6 percent of those living in towns with weak restaurant smoking regulations, where smoking is restricted to designated areas or not restricted at all, 9.8 percent of those in towns with medium regulations where smoking is restricted to enclosed or ventilated areas, or no smoking is allowed but variations are permitted and 7.9 percent of those in towns with complete smoking bans.

The strength of local smoking regulations was not associated with the transition from non-smoking to experimentation, but was associated with the transition from experimentation to established smoking.

The researchers believe that smoking bans can influence youth by decreasing their exposure to smokers in public places and also altering the perceived social acceptability of smoking.

"Both of these effects would be expected to influence the transition from experimentation to established smoking but not experimentation in the first place," wrote the researchers.

According to the authors the results suggest that local smoke-free restaurant laws may decrease youth smoking initiation.

"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," they added.

The report appears in May issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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