The effect of smoking bans on self-reported health: comparative evidence from Germany and the UK

Christoph Wunder, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Daniel Kuehnle, MSc BA

Co Authors
Christoph Wunder

smoking ban, natural experiment, self-assessed health, panel data

Passive smoking is a significant public health issue. in recent years, many countries worldwide have introduced anti-smoking policies to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. However, the health effects of smoking bans are unclear a priori as previous studies for the US have demonstrated both intended and unintended consequences of smoking bans. In particular, one influential study shows that the health of young children deteriorated significantly because smokers were found to substitute private for public smoking spaces.

This paper provides novel comparative evidence on the effects of smoking bans on self-rated health for two European countries, Germany and the UK. We conduct separate analyses for both countries, compare the results, and work out similarities and differences. Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel and the British Household Panel Study, we exploit temporal and regional variation in the implementation of smoking bans, applying a difference-in-differences approach. We address the following research questions: does self-assessed health respond to smoking bans on average? Do different population subgroups respond differently to bans?

In summary, our results identify both population subgroups that benefit and those that suffer from smoking regulations. Separate analyses for Germany and the UK show similar patterns across population subgroups. The findings indicate health improvements for non-smokers whereas smokers report deteriorating health. We detect particularly large benefits for non-smoking women aged 30-49 in both Germany and the UK. We conclude that subjective health assessment improved for non-smokers due to the smoking bans, presumably by reducing the amount of exposure to second-hand smoke, but deteriorated for smokers at least in the short-run.