California academics have found that banning smoking - including inside the home and in entire cities - will reduce smoking.

This makes sense. The death penalty also cuts recidivism of criminals by 100 percent, yet we don't use it for every crime. Meanwhile, Californians want to legalize marijuana, which involve smoking. 

Wael K. Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, professor and chief of the Division of Global Health in the UC San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, says a survey underscores the public health importance of smoking bans inside and outside the home as a way to change smoking behaviors and reduce tobacco consumption at individual and societal levels. 

"When there's a total smoking ban in the home, we found that smokers are more likely to reduce tobacco consumption and attempt to quit than when they're allowed to smoke in some parts of the house. California was the first state in the world to ban smoking in public places in 1994 and we are still finding the positive impact of that ban by changing the social norm and having more homes and cities banning smoking," he said.

Well, it was a survey. That is not really what we call qualitative. Al-Delaimy and colleagues surveyed 1,718 current smokers and found that total home smoking bans were significantly associated with reduced consumption and successful quitting, but partial bans were not. Similarly, smokers who report smoking is broadly banned in their city were also more likely to attempt to quit and succeed than in places where smoking is not banned. 

They then declared based on the survey results that total home bans were more effective in reducing smoking among persons 65 years and older and among females, while city smoking bans were significantly associated with quit attempts in males, but not females. Total home bans, in surveys, were more effective in households without children, possibly reflecting the ultimate goal of cessation rather than primarily reducing children's secondhand smoke exposure. Neither race nor income significantly modified relations between total home bans and smoking reductions.

"These results provide quantitative evidence that smoking bans that are mainly for the protection of nonsmokers from risks of secondhand smoke actually encourage quitting behaviors among smokers in California."

Well, second-hand smoke is another matter. Banning fireplaces would help more people with breathing issues than banning cigarettes would. And California has also declared war on hamburger grills. When it comes to banning personal conduct for someone else, Californians frequently invoke this notion of leadership. Only really crazy ideas, like warning labels on genetically modified foods, can't get passed statewide. In San Francisco, it probably could. 

Published in Preventive Medicine.