New research suggests smoking bans across the UK have reduced the uptake of smoking by teenagers by roughly a fifth.
While smoke-free legislation has been a great success for tobacco control, its impact on the smoking habits of adolescents was poorly understood.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow's MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit along with colleagues at the Welsh Government and the University of Stirling, looked at school-based surveys to see what effect comprehensive smoke-free policies has had on smoking uptake in adolescents.
The study, which is published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, discovered trends in the uptake of smoking amongst teenagers aged 13 and 15 differed substantially before and after the introduction of such legislation.
Dr Vittal Katikireddi, the lead author of the paper, said: "The results demonstrate a fairly big change in the number of young people starting smoking - particularly in girls.
"For 15 year old girls in England the smoking rate reduced from 24% to 19% after the legislation. Of course, the smoking bans are quite recent; the longer term impact could be even greater."
Previous research has established that smoke-free legislation has led to many improvements in population health - including reductions in heart attack, stroke and asthma - however this new research demonstrates that comprehensive smoke-free legislation could help prevent future generations from taking up smoking.
The study, entitled 'Has childhood smoking reduced following smoke-free public places legislation? A segmented regression analysis of cross-sectional UK school-based surveys' was published today in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research and was funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office and Medical Research Council.