Picking cultural winners in the name of public interest is a time-honored tool of government and the social engineers giving them input, but the reasons for bans are often suspect. Banning cigarettes in bars and restaurants rather than creating an evidence-based ventilation requirement was going to cut smoking, it was said, but that hasn't happened no matter what sociological Laffer curve was invoked.

Pundits wanted to create a ghetto-ized underclass but now smokers happily step outside at bars and restaurants, and they meet new people and create their own sub-culture. Less freedom and a more authoritarian government has not caused people to smoke less behind their own closed doors or quit altogether, finds a paper in Nicotine&Tobacco Research.

There is less smoking in homes, and less smoking overall, but that is not due to public bans, it is due to living with a non-smoker who now has science and culture on their side about the impact of cigarettes.

After Quebec announced a smoking ban to take effect in May 2006, researchers were able to collect data from a representative cross-section of the population a month ahead of time. They then followed up a year and a half later. The ban didn't so much except make the proponents of bans happy.  

Instead, greater inspiration to kick the habit likely came from having friends or family who set an example by giving up cigarettes themselves,  says co-author Sylvia Kairouz, an associate professor in sociology at Concordia University, but trends over the past decade suggest a much broader range of factors have reduced the number of nicotine addicts beyond simply forcing smokers to huddle outdoors more often.

It's a factor, though, along with higher taxes - and government reliance on those taxes are why cigarettes are not just banned altogether and instead politicians everywhere are planning to introduce more smoking they can tax, like marijuana.

Th research was supported by an operating grant from the Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative and a contribution from the Ministère de santé et services sociaux.