Around one in five Irish smokers are lighting up less at home since the introduction of the smoking ban in 2004, new research published today* (Wednesday 20 June) has revealed.
The study also shows that the proportion of people smoking at home in Ireland is no higher than in the UK prior to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland going smokefree.
With less than two weeks to go until England’s smoking ban comes into effect, the research, which was part-funded by Cancer Research UK, further dispels the myth that smokefree laws put children’s health at risk by driving smokers to smoke more at home.
When asked, twenty-two per cent of Irish smokers reported placing stronger restrictions on smoking in their home since the introduction of smokefree legislation. Only six per cent reported smoking more in the home after the ban. And seventy-one per cent said the new law had had no effect on their smoking behaviour at home.
Professor Gerard Hastings, director of Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Tobacco Control at the University of Stirling and co-author of the study, said: “This finding echoes the experiences of other countries and places that have gone smokefree. But it also just makes common sense.
“Public support for the ban in Ireland is strong and awareness that secondhand smoke kills is high. Given that smokers accept it’s dangerous and unfair to expose strangers to the poisons in their cigarette smoke, it would be illogical for them to go home and expose their families to the same toxic chemicals.”
Secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease and stroke in non-smoking adults, and can lead to severe respiratory problems, including asthma. Estimates put the annual number of deaths in the UK due to secondhand smoke in the home at more than 10,500**.
The research team also looked at smokers’ drinking behaviour. They found that smokers in post-ban Ireland consumed the same amount of alcoholic drinks in pubs as smokers in the UK.
Almost 2,000 smokers from Ireland and the UK took part in the study.
Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said: “The vast majority of people in England believe that all workers deserve an equal right to work in a safe environment and support going smokefree. These results from Ireland – one of our closest geographical and cultural neighbours – should allay any concerns that the new law will result in smokers in England lighting up more at home.
“They should also reassure the hospitality industry. Research from around the world has shown that smokefree laws don’t have a detrimental effect on bar revenues. But it will be especially relevant for them to see that the smoking ban hasn’t changed the drinking behaviour of smokers in Ireland.
“Going smokefree will save tens of thousands of lives in England. The law is about protecting workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke. But it will also have other important beneficial impacts on the nation’s health – such as encouraging smokers to quit. Along with the rest of the country, we’re counting down the days until 1 July.”
For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
* Hyland A, et al. “Does smokefree Ireland have more smoking inside the home and less in pubs than the UK? Findings from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project” European Journal of Public Health. Published online 20 June 2007.
Participants in the study were surveyed by telephone in February to March 2006. The percentage of daily cigarette consumption occurring in the home after work was compared by country as well as the percentage of alcoholic drinks consumed in the home versus pubs.
Smokers in Ireland were also asked “Has the smoking ban in public places affected the rules about smoking in the home?” Response options were that the ban made them reduce the amount they smoke at home, increase the amount they smoke at home, or it hasn’t affected smoking behaviour in their home.
The participants were part of a larger cohort study conducted as part of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Project.
For more information on the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke visit Cancer Research UK’s ‘Smoke is Poison’ campaign website.
England will go smokefree on Sunday 1 July. For more information on the health benefits the law will bring visit: www.smokefreeaction.org.uk.