Impact of an Inner-City Smoke-Free Zone on Outdoor Smoking Patterns: A Before-After Study

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Abstract

Introduction
On September 2, 2019, Rotterdam’s first inner-city outdoor smoke-free zone encompassing the Erasmus MC, a large university hospital in the Netherlands, the Erasmiaans high school, the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and the public road in between, was implemented.

Aims and Methods
We aimed to assess spatiotemporal patterning of smoking before and after implementation of this outdoor smoke-free zone. We performed a before–after observational field study. We systematically observed the number of smokers, and their locations and characteristics over 37 days before and after implementation of the smoke-free zone.

Results
Before implementation of the smoke-free zone, 4098 people smoked in the area every weekday during working hours. After implementation, the daily number of smokers was 2241, a 45% reduction (p = .007). There was an increase of 432 smokers per day near and just outside the borders of the zone. At baseline, 31% of the smokers were categorized as employee, 22% as student and 3% as patient. Following implementation of the smoke-free zone, the largest decreases in smokers were observed among employees (–67%, p value .004) and patients (–70%, p value .049). Before and after implementation, 21 and 20 smokers were visibly addressed and asked to smoke elsewhere.

Conclusions
Implementation of an inner-city smoke-free zone was associated with a substantial decline in the number of smokers in the zone and an overall reduction of smoking in the larger area. Further research should focus on optimizing implementation of and compliance with outdoor smoke-free zones.

Implications
A smoke-free outdoor policy has the potential to denormalize and discourage smoking, support smokers who want to quit, and to protect people from secondhand smoke exposure. Implementation of an inner-city smoke-free zone encompassing a large tertiary hospital and two educational institutions was associated with a substantial decline in the number of smokers in the zone, as well as in the larger area. Voluntary outdoor smoke-free zones can help reduce the number of smokers in the area and protect people from secondhand smoke. There is a need to explore effectiveness of additional measures to further improve compliance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2075-2083
Number of pages9
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Volume23
Issue number12
Early online date1 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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