Ban on smoking causes crashes - study
A ban on smoking in American bars has increased the number of accidents apparently caused by drinking and driving.
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, researchers say in a paper published in the Journal of Public Economics.
It's based on data from 2000 to 2005, drawn from counties that enforced a ban on smoking in bars during this period and from accident statistics before and after the ban was introduced.
Researchers found that instead of heading to their local bar for a drink and a puff, smokers ventured farther afield in search of a place where lighting up is still allowed
They may not be drinking more than before but they are certainly driving more - and that's what is increasing the risk of a crash.
The study said: "Banning smoking in bars increases the fatal accident risk posed by drunk drivers.
"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."
According figures cited in the report, nearly a one-third of the US population lives in cities, counties or states where there are restrictions on smoking in bars.
Study authors Scott Adams and Chad Cotti of the University of Wisconsin say the increase in drunk driving has to be weighed against "potential positive health impacts" from smoking bans, and this may take years to determine. - Sapa-AFP