A ban on smoking in American bars has caused the number of accidents from drunken driving to surge, researchers have discovered.
US jurisdictions with a smoking ban have seen, on average, a nearly 12 percent rise in the number of drink-related accidents at the wheel, they say in a recent study.
Instead of heading to their local bar for a drink and a smoke,
smokers venture farther afield in search of a place where lighting up
is still allowed, they say.
The smokers may not be drinking more than before, but they are
certainly driving more - and this is what is increasing the risk of a
'Ban increases fatal accident risk'
"Banning smoking in bars increases the fatal accident risk posed by drunk drivers," the study says. "Our evidence is consistent with two mechanisms - smokers searching for alternative locations to drink within a locality and smokers driving to nearby jurisdictions that allow smoking in bars."
The ban is spreading across the United States, but in a piecemeal
fashion. According figures cited in the report, nearly a one-third of
the US population lives in cities, counties or states where there are
Study authors Scott Adams and Chad Cotti, of the University of
Wisconsin, say that the increase in drunk driving has to be weighed
against "potential positive health impacts" from smoking bans, and this
may take years to determine.
Their paper appears in the Journal of Public Economics. It is based on analysis of data from 2000 to 2005, drawn from counties that
enforced a ban during this period and from accident statistics before
and after the ban was introduced. – (Sapa)
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