Michigan’s Smoking Rate Unaffected by Statewide Smoking Ban

One of the intentions of Michigan’s smoking ban was that it would reduce smoking in Michigan. When ban advocates claim a ban will make the public healthier overall, this is what they mean.

“The aim [of smoking bans] is reduce the public acceptability of smoking and the culture which surrounds it. We know that legislation which discourages all public smoking will have the better impact on…perception of smoking as an unacceptable habit. Hence fewer people will smoke, hence overall health will improve.”–Baroness Elaine Murphy, fmr Chair of North East London Strategic Health Authority, on the justification behind smoking bans

But that’s not what happened. According to The Economic Impact of Michigan’s Dr. Ron Davis Smoke-Free Air Law: A Report to the Michigan Department of Community Health, August 6, 2012:

“The ban may have shifted where people smoke but does not seem to have accelerated the decline in overall smoking.”

The author of the report adds that this is “surprising,” but it shouldn’t be. A cursory glance at post-ban smoking rates around the globe shows bans don’t seem to have a significant effect. Ireland’s smoking rate, for example, rose to a third of the population after they enacted their ban.

The fact that Michigan’s ban hasn’t reduced overall smoking is important. It means a reasonable compromise on the issue wouldn’t cause an increase in overall smoking.