The Impact of Tobacco Bans: How They Are Changing Communities

Smoking harms almost every organ in the body and causes multiple diseases. These include cancer, heart disease, respiratory diseases (such as emphysema), and other illnesses such as diabetes and problems with the immune system.

Business owners often worry that bans will impose costs on their businesses. Using individual data on smoking behavior, we use a difference-in-difference approach to examine bans’ economic impact.


Tobacco ban may have significant consequences for the health of local communities. Many studies have found that they significantly reduce cigarette consumption. However, most of these studies use aggregative data and compare smoking bans to non-smoking areas over time. A more precise analysis using differences-in-differences is necessary to determine if these bans cause harm or benefit residents.

Researchers employ such a technique to estimate the immediate and long-term effects of total public smoking bans on smokers’ cigarette consumption. Specifically, they examine changes in cigarette consumption using surveys that span years when provinces implemented different smoking bans. It allows us to control smuggling and price inflation.

The findings imply that a comprehensive smoking ban would have little immediate effect. Nonetheless, they significantly reduce consumption over the longer term. It is associated with lower overall and chronic cigarette consumption and reduced exposure to ETS (secondhand smoke) for nonsmokers.

This effect may be partially due to a drop in cigarette prices. Indeed, a recent study found that for every 10% increase in cigarette taxes, sales drop by 8%. It is in addition to other measures aimed at denormalizing smoking, such as mass media campaigns and cessation services.


As researchers examine the long-term effects of smoking bans, they assess their economic impact. In general, there is substantial evidence that introducing smoke-free policies reduces the overall consumption of tobacco products by smokers and nonsmokers alike.

This finding is due to many factors. First, there is a direct reduction in the cost of cigarette purchases as prices decline following a ban. Second, there is an indirect reduction in consumption by smokers themselves. Studies using OLS models that account for utility preference ordering indicate that a complete smoking ban is associated with a 1.030 per day decrease in the average number of cigarettes smoked by everyday smokers.

A few studies report that smoke-free laws harm restaurants and bars. However, these results are based on citation data, which may be subject to biases and overlook the possibility that smokers have developed sophisticated tactics for avoiding detection by law enforcement officers. In addition, it is unlikely that public health authorities randomly select venues to visit regularly.

The authors of the most recent study on this topic, which used difference-in-difference models to control for time and location variation, found that a smoke-free policy was associated with an average increase in sales of bars and restaurants of about 1.5 percent. These findings suggest that legislators should consider the trade-off between preserving the welfare of a particular group and the economic effect on other businesses when deciding to implement a smoking ban.


In addition to harming health, smoking also damages the environment. Despite claims of green benefits from newer products like e-cigarettes, tobacco use remains harmful to the planet. Researchers calculate that the entire tobacco industry emits 84 million metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly, roughly the same as a medium-sized country such as Peru. Moreover, the production and consumption of cigarettes require massive amounts of water—in the form of irrigation for fields growing tobacco and drinks in bars and restaurants. Furthermore, cigarette butts pollute the environment and clog storm drains.

Bans also have economic costs, most obviously for owners who find it less profitable to open places that cater to smokers and drinkers. Even though many continue to operate, the number of citations for non-compliance reflects their losses from higher enforcement. Studies that ignore or minimize these costs are inconsistent with claims that bans impose net benefits and must be considered when weighing the desirability of such measures.

In addition, a more thorough understanding of the environmental damage caused by tobacco is needed to fully inform the debate over whether or not bans are desirable. For example, tobacco cultivation and processing compete with land that could grow food for the world’s population, causing famine and poverty in some parts of the world. Additionally, the toxic chemicals sprayed on tobacco crops threaten to contaminate surrounding areas, while the enormous amounts of paper and plastic waste produced by cigarette butts litter the globe.


A key issue is who bears the costs of smoking bans. Several studies estimate that smokers pay a price for bans, and it is essential to weigh these costs against any gains from reduced secondhand smoke exposure.

A recent study using instrumental variable techniques finds that primary public smoking bans reduce cigarette consumption by two to three percent. However, the impact varies by type of establishment and level of enforcement, with bars reportedly suffering more harm than restaurants. That is because bars provide a social setting where customers enjoy mingling with other smokers. They may receive higher utility from this activity than smoking alone at home or in their cars. Moreover, as in restaurants, many bar owners will likely find it costly and unappetizing to segregate smoking from nonsmoking patrons.

Moreover, continued ban non-compliance seems primarily located in bars and organizations with a strong reputation for violating the law. Public health authorities may likely visit these locations randomly, so continued citations indicate that these establishments are receiving higher losses from greater enforcement. It is also likely that these establishments will seek remedies for their losses from the ban.

Bans benefit everybody by reducing secondhand smoke exposure but mainly help disadvantaged communities. It is because tobacco products have taken a tremendous toll on minorities and have been linked to heart attacks, respiratory problems, infant health, and death.