If you’re going to issue a ban on smoking, you’d better make sure it sticks. In a new study from the University of California, researchers show that total city-wide smoking bans are significantly more effective than regulation that allows smoking in designated areas. Aside from fueling anti-smoking campaigns, the findings may also help shape future policy making.

Today, cities all over the world are implementing more and more strict measures aimed at preventing the often fatal health complications of smoking and second-hand exposure. Some towns have now begun to ban tobacco use at home. Published in the journal Preventive Medicine, the new study sought to quantify the effect of such sweeping bans on the local rate of partial and total smoking cessation.

According to senior author Wael Delaimy, the reviewed statistics suggest that total bans are indeed more effective when it comes to reining in tobacco use. "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," he said in a press release. "The same held true when smokers report a total smoking ban in their city or town. Having both home and city bans on smoking appears to be even more effective."

To investigate, the team surveyed a group of 1,718 current smokers billed as a representative sample of California’s adult population. They found that, while living under a partial ban did not correspond to any significant changes in tobacco use, living in a home subject to a total ban was “significantly associated” with reduced smoking. Smokers living in cities with total bans were also more likely to successfully kick the habit.

"These results provide quantitative evidence that smoking bans that are mainly for the protection of nonsmokers from risks of secondhand smoke actually encourage quitting behaviors among smokers in California,” the researchers concluded. “They highlight the potential value of increasing city-level smoking bans and creating a win-win outcome."

The results of the study will likely fuel debates like the one surrounding the town of San Rafael, Calif., where officials recently implemented what some say is the most stringent smoking ban in the nation. The law, which makes it illegal for residents to smoke in their home if they share a wall with another dwelling, has so far drawn both criticism and praise. “We are happy to blaze a trail,” Mayor Gary Phillips told reporters shortly before the November vote. 

Source: Rong W. Zablocki, Steven D. Edland, Mark G. Myers, David R. Strong, C. Richard Hofstetter, Wael K. Al-Delaimy.Smoking ban policies and their influence on smoking behaviors among current California smokers: A population-based studyPreventive Medicine, 2013.