With smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants and bars becoming increasingly popular, new research shows that these bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, result in people quitting.

One reason bans help people quit is simple biology. Inhaling tobacco actually increases the number of receptors in the brain that crave nicotine.

Richard Hurt, an internist who head the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center said, "If you had a smoker compared to a non-smoker and were able to do an imaging study of the brain, the smoker would have billions more of the receptors in areas of the brain that have to do with pleasure and reward."

So, removing the triggers that turn on those receptors is a good thing.

"If you are in a place where smoking is allowed, your outside world is hooked to the receptors in your brain through your senses: your sight, smell, the smoke from someone else's tobacco smoke or cigarette. That reminds the receptors about the pleasure of smoking to that individual, and that's what produces the cravings and urges to smoke," Hurt explains.

Hurt added that bans help decrease the urge to smoke in another way: They de-normalise it. For example, where smoking is considered the norm, as it was in so many countries in Europe for so long, more people smoke. In places where smoking is no longer the norm in places such as California, for example, there are fewer smokers.

Research shows that nicotine replacement medications, like nicotine gum, patches or inhalers, double a smoker's chances of quitting. As do counselling and therapy. "Add a smoking ban, and chance of successfully quitting is even better," Hurt said.


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