Decade after smoking ban, more than 20% of Ohioans still smoke

Adult smoking rates in Ohio

2007: 23.1

2008: 20.1

2009: 20.3

2010: 22.5

2011: 25.1*

2012: 23.3

2013: 23.4

2014: 21

2015: 21.6

Source: CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey

*Survey methodology changed in 2011

A decade after voters approved a statewide indoor smoking ban, Ohio’s adult smoking rate has declined slightly to 21.6 percent but it is still well above the national average rate of 15.1 percent.

Still, anti-tobacco activists call the Ohio Smoke Free Law, adopted by 58.5 percent of voters in November 2006, an unquestionable victory for public health.

“The smoking rates have definitely decreased because of this and we’ve seen (negative) health outcomes — like heart attacks — reduced. We know from scientific data that there are fewer people allowing smoking in their homes when you have smoke free laws,” said Shelly Kiser of the American Lung Association’s Ohio chapter. “The public is incredibly supportive of this law. There has been so many positive aspects to this law but it hasn’t solved our smoking problem in Ohio, obviously.”

The Ohio Department of Health called the smoking ban “one of the most successful public health advances in Ohio.”

In 2007, the first year that Ohio’s smoking ban was implemented, the adult smoking rate stood at 23.1 percent. With the ban in place, adult smoking rates immediately started to drop — 20.1 percent in 2008 and 20.3 percent in 2009 — but it didn’t hold. By 2010, the rate crept back up to 22.5.

In 2011, the federal Centers for Disease Control changed its data collection methods to include cell phone numbers in its health surveys. So, that year, Ohio’s adult smoking rate was reported as 25.1 percent. Kiser said numbers before and after the 2011 methodology change aren’t apples to apples comparisons.

There is less data available on youth smoking since the Youth Risk Factor Behavior Survey is done every other year.

In 2007, 21.6 percent of high school students reported smoking one or more cigarettes in the previous 30 days and 10.3 percent reported smoking 20 or more cigarettes. By 2013, the occasional smoker rate among Ohio high school students dropped to 6.8 percent while the frequent smoker rate dropped to 15.1 percent.

Kiser reported, though, that high school students are using e-cigarettes at a higher rate than they use regular cigarettes.

Still, a national study from Ohio State University released last week found that smoking bans led young men living in those areas to give up, or never take up, the use of cigarettes, and that bans are effective in preventing light smokers from becoming heavy smokers.

“These findings provide some of the most robust evidence to date on the impact of smoking bans on young people’s smoking,” said Mike Vuolo, co-author of the study and OSU assistant professor of sociology, in a written statement.

The probability of a young man smoking in the last 30 days in an area without a ban was 19 percent. The probability dropped to 13 percent for those living in an area with a ban, researchers found.

Results showed that the probability of a young man smoking in the last 30 days was 19 percent for those living in an area without a ban, but only 13 percent for those who live in an area with a ban. Probability of smoking for women wasn’t impacted.

“There’s a lot of evidence that casual, social smokers are influenced by their environment. If they can’t smoke inside with their friends at a restaurant or bar, they may choose not to smoke at all,” Vuolo said.

Smoking increases the risks that the smoker will suffer from cancer, chronic breathing problems, heart disease and strokes. Pregnant women who smoke run the risk of delivering premature or low-birth weight babies.

Kiser said Ohio can reduce its smoking rates by boosting taxes on other tobacco products, increasing the tobacco purchase age to 21, making college campuses tobacco free and offering cessation services like the quit line for all Ohioans who smoke.

Tobacco 21 is a push to increase the legal purchase age to 21 years of age, up from 18. Advocates argue that bumping up the purchase age will make it more difficult for high school students to get their slightly-older friends to buy cigarettes for them. Cleveland and four Columbus suburbs have adopted local ordinances prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone under 21.

In Ohio, local jurisdictions began adopting smoking bans before public health advocates put the proposed statewide indoor smoking ban up for a vote in 2006. Kiser said the plan is to eventually get a state law limiting tobacco purchases to 21 and up.

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