To protect nonsmokers, many cities have banned smoking in public places, but a recent study shows that total smoking bans - in the home or public places - help smokers to cut back or quit completely.

The researchers, from the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, published their results in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Wael K. Al-Delaimy, from UCSD and study author, says that California was the very first state to ban public smoking in certain places in 1994.

According to the County of San Diego, California state law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of entrances, exits and windows of public buildings. And regarding private buildings and residences, many management companies put policies in place that prohibit smoking at their facilities.

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Successfully quitting smoking is more likely in homes and cities that completely ban the habit, researchers have found.

Many cities have also enacted smoking bans in recent years.

The city of Beverly Hills, for example, initiated smoking restrictions in outdoor dining areas in 2007 - deemed the "90210 Fresh Air Dining" ordinance. A year after it was put in place, the city reported positive feedback(resource no longer available at www.beverlyhills.org).

According to Smoke-Free San Diego, over 440,000 people in the US die each year from tobacco-related diseases, making it the leading cause of preventable death.

Along with causing cancer and cardiovascular disease, smoking creates increased risks for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth and low birth weights.

Though the negative effects of first- and second-hand smoke have been widely reported, the issue of third-hand smoke has recently become a hot topic.

Third-hand smoke encompasses everything left after a cigarette is put out, including toxic particulates that stick to hair, clothing, cars and carpets, among other surfaces.

Total, not partial, bans work best

Dr. Al-Delaimy and his colleagues surveyed 1,718 smokers in California who were representative of the adult population and found that completely banning tobacco use inside the home or in a whole city significantly increased the chances of smokers cutting back or quitting.

In detail, the team found that total home smoking bans were linked to a significant reduction in smoking and success at quitting, whereas partial bans were not.

Dr. Al-Delaimy adds:

"When there's a total smoking ban in the home, we found that smokers are more likely to reduce tobacco consumption and attempt to quit than when they're allowed to smoke in some parts of the house."

Additionally, smokers who live in cities where smoking is "broadly banned" were more likely to successfully quit than those who lived in places where there were no smoking bans.

In individuals over 65-years-old and females, the team found that total home bans were most effective in reducing smoking. City-wide smoking bans were linked to males attempting to quit, but not females, the team adds.

Public health importance of smoking bans

The investigators also found that in homes without children, total home bans were more effective, which they say likely reflects the ultimate goal of quitting, rather than reducing second-hand smoke exposure for children.

Their findings highlight the public health importance of smoking bans - both inside and outside the home - to reduce tobacco use at both individual and societal levels, they say.

Ever since California banned smoking in public places in 1994, Dr. Al-Delaimy says the "positive impact" of that ban is still evident, as it has changed the "social norm."

He adds:

"These results provide quantitative evidence that smoking bans that are mainly for the protection of nonsmokers from risks of second-hand smoke actually encourage quitting behaviors among smokers in California."

Dr. Al-Delaimy adds that their findings "highlight the potential value of increasing city-level smoking bans and creating a win-win outcome."

Medical News Today has detailed several ways to help give up smoking and recently reported on a study that suggested there are no serious heart risks linked to smoking cessation therapies.