Smokefree Legislation

A Review of Health and Economic Outcomes Research
  • Ellen J. Hahn
    Address correspondence to: Ellen J. Hahn, PhD, RN, Director, Tobacco Policy Research Program, Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, University of Kentucky, 751 Rose Street, Lexington KY 40536-0232
    Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, College of Nursing and College of Public Health, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
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      Smokefree legislation is a powerful public health intervention. Despite progress in smokefree legislation, over half of U.S. adults remain unprotected by comprehensive smokefree legislation.

      Evidence acquisition

      This paper reviews the scientific literature on health and economic outcome studies of smokefree legislation from the past decade, 2000 to early 2010, using MEDLINE and key search terms: smoking, smoking cessation, smoking/legislation and jurisprudence, smoking cessation/legislation and jurisprudence, and health policy.

      Evidence synthesis

      There is a wealth of research showing the health benefits to entire populations when communities implement comprehensive smokefree laws and/or regulations. These laws improve the health of hospitality workers and the general population by improving indoor air quality, reducing acute myocardial infarctions and asthma exacerbations, and improving infant and birth outcomes. Some studies report reduced smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption and improved cessation outcomes after smokefree legislation. In addition to the health benefits, economic studies confirm that smokefree laws do not adversely affect business revenues or operating costs.


      While there is an abundance of smokefree policy outcomes research showing both the health and economic impacts of smokefree legislation, these outcomes may have more to do with implementation effectiveness than adoption, especially among subpopulations. An emerging body of literature documents not only that disparities in health protections remain among subpopulations, but that health outcomes of smokefree legislation may vary by gender, race/ethnicity, SES, and age. Further research is needed on implementation effectiveness of smokefree legislation and differential effects on subpopulations.
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