Impacts of smoking bans

Date posted: September 19, 2012

Smoking bans in commercial areas and public places have increased in frequency across the country and even here in North Carolina. In fact, one North Carolina community is even contemplating banning smoking on the beach. N.C. State University economist takes a look at how such bans affect smoking.

“And of course …, these bans have been very, very controversial — the subject of a lot of discussion. We now have some new research from the Federal Reserve, of all places, looking at the impact of these smoking bans.

“And a couple of conclusions here: Probably the most important conclusion so far is that the smoking bans do not — do not — appear to affect the overall incidence of smoking, because they don’t cause people to stop smoking or to reduce the rate of smoking. The Federal Reserve has not found to date any evidence of that.

“Instead what the bans do is they have an impact on, obviously, where people smoke. So if there’s a ban on smoking at the beach or in restaurants … the notion here is that those patrons, those users of beach or restaurants, they won’t stop smoking. They’ll just go somewhere else to smoke.

“Now the Federal Reserve is very careful to point out there may be some caveats to this … research — that is, that it may not hold up over time; that is, that it may take a long time, for example, for people to change their smoking habits so that we don’t know five years or 10 years down the road whether these results will hold up.

“But the bottom line right now is that the smoking bans do not have appear to have an effect on the incidents of smoking. They do appear to have a big impact on where people smoke.”

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