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Stirling academic reports on success of smokefree legislation in England

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Smokefree legislation has worked – this is the finding of a comprehensive review of all the research that has been carried out on the impact of the law in England. The report ‘The Impact of Smokefree Legislation in England: Evidence Review’ is published today (Wednesday 10 March) by the Department of Health, and was conducted by Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Stirling and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies.

Speaking of the study, Professor Bauld said: “The report’s findings are that the smokefree law in England has had a positive impact on health and it has changed smoking behaviour and attitudes. It has clear implications for ongoing efforts to protect people from second hand smoke and reduce smoking rates.”

The ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places was examined for the effects it had on health, smoking and the hospitality industry. The review outlines some important findings. These included a significant improvement in the respiratory health of bar workers; a drop in hospital admissions for heart attacks and changes in smokers’ behaviour –including a reduction in their tobacco consumption and an increase in the number of smokers trying to quit the habit around the time of the ban.

In addition, initial analysis shows that the introduction of smokefree legislation has had no negative impact on business, although longer-term assessment is required.

However, Professor Bauld concluded that a priority for future developments should be maintaining and extending smokefree environments to protect children and other vulnerable groups. Speaking of the report’s findings, she said: “This report shows that smokefree places not only reduce exposure to second hand smoke but also help de-normalise smoking – a key component of preventing children from starting.”

“This means we need to consider extensions to some outside spaces (such as playgrounds and all school grounds) and reopen the debate on laws about smoking in cars with children.

“Serious consideration should now be given, in all parts of the UK, to extending smokefree regulations to areas not currently covered by the law. For example, prisons, care homes and (in Scotland and Wales) mental health units are exempt.

“Smokefree legislation has been a success – but we need to build on that, not simply maintain the status quo. Evidence from other countries suggests that wider extensions can be successful and are accepted by the public.”

Notes to editors:

The report’s key findings:

  • A study of bar workers in England showed that their exposure to SHS reduced on average between 73% and 91% after the introduction of the legislation and measures of their respiratory health significantly improved.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of SHS and research explored changes in exposure over time. A study found that between 1996 and 2007, SHS exposure amongst children declined by nearly 70%. The reductions were greatest in the period immediately before the introduction of smokefree legislation, coinciding with national mass media campaigns around the dangers of SHS.
  • The health impacts of SHS exposure are well documented and international evidence has shown that smokefree laws can have a positive impact on health. In England, the legislation resulted in a statistically significant reduction (-2.4%) in the number of hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (MIs). This amounted to 1,200 emergency admissions for MIs in the year following the introduction of smokefree.
  • The report also describes changes in smoking behaviour after the legislation. A study looking at the impact of the law in particular communities found a general pattern of smokers cutting down their tobacco consumption in all locations where the study took place. The same study found attitudes to smoking had changed following the ban. Other research in the report found a statistically significant increase in the number of people making a quit attempt at the time of the legislation (July and August 2007), equivalent to 300,000 smokers in England trying to quit.
  • The report also looked at the impact of the law on the hospitality industry. International evidence suggests that after allowing for short term costs associated with the new law (i.e. new signage, employee training) the introduction of smokefree legislation has a net positive effect on businesses. A feasibility study was conducted in England to explore ways of examining the impact of the law on restaurants, bars, hotels and other hospitality venues. This found no evidence of any obvious effect of smokefree legislation on the hospitality industry. However, the authors emphasised that a longer-term analysis of impact is needed.

The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS) is a strategic partnership of nine UK universities: Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Stirling, UCL andYork.

The Centre involves leading tobacco control researchers from a range of disciplines and is part of a wider £20 million investment into public health research, funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

Each of the institutions involved work collaboratively to deliver original research, policy development, advocacy, teaching and training, drawing on the expertise of leading tobacco control researchers.

More information on the Centre can be found at http://www.ukctcs.org

The report ‘The Impact of Smokefree Legislation in England: Evidence Review’ is now available on the Department of Health website: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_124961 

For media enquiries, please contact: Andy Mitchell, Head of Communications, University of Stirling, on: 01786 467058 or email: mediarelations@stir.ac.uk  

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