Smoke-Free Laws May Reduce College Smoking

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2010) −  Comprehensive smoke-free laws in communities surrounding college campuses may reduce smoking rates among college students who live, work and recreate there, particularly after the laws are well-established, according to a University of Kentucky study published Jan. 29 in the Journal of Community Health.  The study also examined the effect of smoke-free laws on alcohol use among college students and found no association between enacting smoke-free laws and alcohol use among college students.


The purpose of the study was to examine whether strength and duration of municipal smoke-free laws are associated with cigarette and alcohol use among college students. Full-time undergraduates from two Southeastern universities participated in surveys assessing tobacco and alcohol use and other risk behaviors before and after the enactment of comprehensive municipal smoke-free laws. One university (Site A) was located in a city with an established (3.5 years) comprehensive smoke-free law that included bars. The other (Site B) was in a city with a less established (eight months) law.  The first cohort at each site participated prior to enactment of a municipal smoke-free law in the community. The second survey was conducted after the law went into effect. 


Cigarette and alcohol use (past 30 days) and other demographic and personal characteristics were assessed. At Site A, controlling for demographic differences and current alcohol use, the odds of being a current smoker were 32 percent lower post-law (28 percent pre-law vs. 19 percent post-law; odds ratio = 0.68, P = 0.02). At Site B, with demographics and drinking status in the model, the decrease in smoking rate from pre- to post-law was not significant. At both sites, controlling for demographics and current smoking status, change in the likelihood of drinking was not significant.

“Enacting and maintaining strong, comprehensive smoke-free laws over time provide protection for young people by reducing the devastating health risks of smoking in the college-aged population,” said Ellen J. Hahn, professor of nursing at the UK College of Nursing and the study's lead author.