Household smoking bans might decrease the visibility of cigarette smoking and communicate nonsmoking social norms and parental attitudes to youths, which may serve as mediators to reduce smoking initiation. Whether they have these effects even if parents smoke or do not otherwise communicate strong disapproval of smoking to their children is not clear. We tested these hypotheses in multi-level analyses.
A telephone survey of a random sample of 3831 Massachusetts adolescents (12-17 years) assessed respondents' perceptions of smoking prevalence and attitudes about the social acceptability of smoking in their community. The association of these outcomes with the presence of a smoking ban in the youths' home was tested in multivariate analyses that adjusted for town-level clustering and individual and environmental characteristics.
A household smoking ban was reported by 71% of all youths and 49% of youths who lived with smokers. In multivariate models, youths who had a household smoking ban were more likely to perceive a lower adult smoking prevalence (OR 2.1; 95% CI 1.7-2.5; P < 0.001), greater adult disapproval of adult smoking (OR 2.0; 1.5-2.6; P < 0.001) and of teen smoking (OR 1.5; 95% CI 1.2-1.9; P = 0.001).
Among adolescents, a household smoking ban was associated with a lower perceived prevalence of adult smoking in their communities and more negative attitudes about the social acceptability of smoking, two factors that affect the likelihood of smoking initiation. Household smoking bans had these effects even in the presence of two parental factors known to encourage adolescent smoking initiation (parental smoking and lack of perceived parental disapproval of youth tobacco use). This provides an additional rationale for promoting household smoking bans to parents.