French playgrounds to be smoke-free: a selection of my thoughts on outdoor smoking bans

There is a growing trend for smoking to be banned in many outdoor public spaces. The policy is often supported with a potential of a fine for the person who is breaching the ban. Canada, U. S. A and Australia all have bylaws or state legislation that prohibit smoking in a number of outdoor public settings including outdoor dining venues, playgrounds, building entrances and beaches. The recent announcement is that France is set to prohibit smoking in children’s playgrounds.

I waver considerably when I think about smoking restrictions in outdoor spaces. I do not like the potential that these bans have to stigmatize or ostracize smokers. On the other hand as a mother I like being able to enjoy outdoor public spaces without my children being exposed to smoke.

One important question that I think needs an answer is: do increasing prohibitions on where you are allowed to smoke help people to stop smoking?

There is some evidence emerging that they do – although the evidence is not strong yet and I haven’t done a systematic review of the studies relating to this question.

With respect to helping or encouraging people to stop smoking, there are two recent studies that I think are relevant. The first was a study set in California. Zablocki and others (2014) found that people who smoke who thought that their city had bans on smoking in outdoor are more likely to reduce their smoking or quit smoking than those who think there aren’t any bans on smoking in outdoor public spaces. The second examined the effect of bans on smoking at outdoor dining and entertainment venues (termed patios in Canada) on smoking cessation in Canada. Chaiton and colleagues interviewed a sample of people at different times. People who reported they had attended outdoor dining venues that didn’t ban smoking were less likely to succeed at quitting smoking compared to those who reported they attended smoke-free dining venues or no outdoor dining venues.

Surveys, such as one by Wilson and colleagues (page 80), that report support among smokers for bans on smoking in some outdoor public setting have certainly helped to strengthen my approval for them. Smoker support for outdoor smoking bans tends to be higher for venues where children are likely to be.