BIDDEFORD — January marked the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. While smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, a new study by a University of New England valuation team highlights Maine’s success at reducing secondhand smoke exposure. 

Researchers at the School of Community and Population Health found that the prevalence of smoke-free car and home rules among Maine adults was significantly higher after the passage of a state-wide smoke-free vehicle law that prohibits smoking in a car with passengers under age 16. Researchers note that the apparent change in smoke-free rule prevalence may be indicative of changing social norms related to the unacceptability of secondhand smoke exposure. 

The study is the first to examine the prevalence of reported smoke-free rules in private cars and homes prior to and after the passage of a smoke-free vehicle law in the United States. UNE’s findings were published yesterday in the academic journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Last month, the Surgeon General issued a report, “Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress,” highlighting major accomplishments throughout the country in tobacco prevention and control over the past 50 years. The report mentions Maine’s ban of smoking in public housing, enacted in 2012; and the Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine is listed among programs with successful outcomes.

In addition, the report presented new data on the health consequences of smoking and discussed scenarios that can potentially end the tobacco epidemic in the United States.

The University of New England’s study can be accessed at: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/index.htm.