Ohio State Professor Studies Local Level Anti-Tobacco Policy Effectiveness

A first-of-its-kind national study found that bans worked best at limiting smoking among more casual users: Those who smoked less than a pack a day. Heavy taxes worked best with those who smoked more than a pack a day. Another key finding of the study was that combining smoking bans with high taxes didn’t reduce overall smoking rates in a city more than either of the policies by itself.

Michael Vuolo is the lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. The study was published online Dec. 21, 2015 in the American Journal of Public Health. Vuolo conducted the study with Brian Kelly and Joy Kadowaki of Purdue University.

The researchers found big changes in both bans and taxes from 2004 to 2011. The percentage living in a city with a comprehensive ban increased from 14.9 percent to 58.7 percent during that time, while average taxes increased from 81 cents to $1.65 per pack.

The cities with the highest rates of smoking were those that had no smoking bans and low or no taxes on cigarettes.

Results showed that those residing in cities with bans were 21 percent less likely to currently smoke at all when compared to those who lived in cities without bans. But taxes did not have a significant effect on casual smokers.

By contrast, those who smoked more than a pack a day were primarily deterred, not by the bans, but by the economic costs – in other words, higher taxes.