A decade since the UK public smoking ban was introduced, researchers have been finding out who has benefitted most from the changes.
And the new study from Lancaster University has found there is one group whose wellbeing has improved more than all other demographics – married women with children.
This finding is particularly important because it highlights the welfare impact extends beyond just smokers themselves.
The World Health Organisation reports that every single year seven million deaths worldwide are directly caused by the habit, which leads to diseases such as cancer, heart disease and strokes.
They also say that tobacco kills 50% of its users.
Ten yeas ago it was hoped that the ban, which stopped smokers from lighting up in enclosed spaces (such as pubs and restaurants) from 2006 in Scotland and 2007 in England, would motivate people to quit.
And to mitigate some of the negative effects of second-hand smoke on nonsmokers sharing those communal areas.
But, what the scientists (and government) at the time could not predict, was who would feel the greatest change in their wellbeing levels as a result.
Now the scientists have analysed data from the British Household Panel Survey, where participants (who were a mix of regular smokers, occasional smokers, and complete non-smokers) self-reported psychological wellbeing before and after the introduction of the ban.
They found married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.
There were also increases in happiness among married men who quit after the ban, and married men and women who never smoked (regardless of whether their partner did).
Dr Eugenio Zucchelli, said: “We find that public smoking bans appear to have a statistically significant short-term positive impact on the well-being of married individuals, especially among women with dependent children.”
And Zucchelli speculates that the reason for this increased wellbeing in this group is “altruistic preference towards their children” that benefits from their decreased concern about secondhand smoke exposure.
Although this is positive news, reports have suggested that the government could do more good by further taxing cigarettes.
Global studies have found that increasing taxes on cigarettes to 75% of their price in 14 regions had a bigger impact, than smoking bans.
Tax rises prevented 3.5 million smoking-related deaths while ‘smoke-free air laws’ averted 2.5 million deaths.