Publication Date: 
Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Problem: Tobacco use is a source of chronic and fatal illnesses for users and persons with secondary exposure. In the United States, cigarette smoking contributes to one in five deaths and costs more than $193 billion annually in lost productivity and healthcare expenditures.CDC: Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 2000–2004.  It has been suggested that workplace smoking bans aid in smoking cessation efforts by changing how individuals view tobacco use.  CDC: Smoke-Free Workplaces Reduce Smoking.

The Law: Smoking bans and restrictions prohibit smoking in specified areas. These restrictions aim to eliminate or reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking bans and restrictions are found in state and local laws as well as regulations governing workplace safety. For examples of state smoking bans, see ARS 36-601.01 (Arizona), Utah Health Code § 26.83.3 (Utah), VT Health Code § 1742 (Vermont), and RI Health & Safety Code § 23-20.10-3 (Rhode Island).

The Evidence: Fichtenberg and Glantz systematically reviewed and conducted a meta-analysis of 26 studies that assessed the impact of workplace smoking bans on tobacco consumption using a fixed effects meta-analysis. Fichtenberg & Glantz, Effect of smoke­free workplaces on smoking behaviour: systematic review. BMJ 2002; 325: 188. The authors limited their analysis to primary studies that assessed the effect of total smoking bans, and excluded studies examining the effects of laws limiting smoking to specific areas. The 26 studies were conducted in Australia, Canada, the United States and Germany.  Each of the included studies employed a cross-sectional design and measured both prevalence of cigarette smoking and quantity of cigarettes smoked before and after the introduction of a workplace smoking ban. Meta-analysis of the studies revealed a 3.8 percent reduction in prevalence of cigarette smokers and a reduction of 3.1 cigarettes a day per continuing smoker. The meta-analysis also found that the bans were associated with the consumption of 1.3 fewer cigarettes a day per employee.

The Bottom Line: According to the authors of a peer-reviewed meta-analysis, there is substantial evidence that workplace smoking bans effectively reduce the prevalence of smoking, the quantity of cigarettes smoked, and exposure to second hand smoke.

Impact: Effective