The Effect of Smoke-Free Air Law in Bars on Smoking Initiation and Relapse among Teenagers and Young Adults

Background: Existing evidence has shown that most smoking uptake and escalation occurs while smokers are teenagers or young adults. Effective policies that reduce smoking uptake and escalation will play an important role in curbing cigarette smoking. This study aims to investigate the effect of smoke-free air (SFA) laws in bars on smoking initiation/relapse while controlling for other confounders.

Methods: The national longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) from 1997–2009 was linked to state-level scores for the strength of SFA laws in order to carry out the analysis.

Results and Conclusion: We find that SFA laws in bars with exemptions significantly reduce (p ≤ 0.01) the probability of smoking initiation (one-puff, daily, and heavy smoking initiation). The 100% SFA law in bars without exemption significantly deters smoking relapse from abstinence into daily smoking (p ≤ 0.05) or relapse from abstinence into heavy smoking (p ≤ 0.01) among people age 21 or older. The reduction of one-puff and daily smoking initiation is larger among ages 20 or younger than ages 21 or older, while the reduction in relapse does not differ by whether respondents reach the drinking age. Results also indicate that higher cigarette taxes significantly reduce daily smoking initiation and relapse into nondaily and light smoking.