People who smoke are more likely to successfully give up the habit if they live near green spaces, research suggests. Scientists have also found that those residing in leafy neighbourhoods are less likely to smoke.


The research, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, is based on Health Survey for England (HSE) data from more than 8,000 adults.

“This study is the first to investigate the association between neighbourhood greenspace and smoking behaviours in England," said Leanne Martin, from the University of Plymouth, the lead author on the study.

“Its findings support the need to protect and invest in natural resources, in both urban and more rural communities, in order to maximise the public health benefits they may afford.

“If our findings are substantiated by further work, nature-based interventions could be prescribed to assist individuals attempting to give up smoking.”

Read more about smoking:

Previous studies by the same team have shown that access to green space is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol and unhealthy foods as well as better physical and mental wellbeing.

Among those taking part in the survey, under one fifth (19 per cent) described themselves as current smokers while almost half (45 per cent) said they had regularly smoked at some point during their lives.

Analysis showed people living in areas with a high proportion of green spaces were 20 per cent less likely to be current smokers than those in less green areas. Among those who had smoked at some point during their lives, people living in greener neighbourhoods were up to 12 per cent more likely to have successfully quit smoking.

This study emphasises the need to preserve existing green spaces and expand the development of new ones
Dr Mathew White

The authors suggest that improving access to green spaces could be factored into the public health strategy for reducing smoking prevalence.

“Despite a decline in prevalence within the general population over the last decade, smoking remains a devastating and global public health issue," said study co-author Dr Mathew White, senior scientist at the University of Vienna and honorary associate professor at the University of Exeter.

“Governments across the world spend billions each year trying to tackle it, both in an attempt to improve public health and reduce the strain on health services.


“This study emphasises the need to preserve existing green spaces and expand the development of new ones.”

Reader Q&A: If a non-smoker was to wear nicotine patches, would they become addicted to nicotine?

Asked by: Martin Cox, New Milton

It’s possible, but patches are likely to be less addictive than cigarettes. You inhale about 1mg of nicotine from each cigarette. Daily nicotine patch doses vary from 5mg to 25mg, so a nicotine patch can give the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.

However, cigarette smoke is absorbed through the lungs much faster than the steady dose delivered through a skin patch. The sudden spike of nicotine from smoking, followed by the corresponding low, is part of what creates the addiction in the brain.

Patches also don’t come with the social rituals associated with cigarette smoking. A small number of people have reported feelings of dependency from nicotine replacement mouth sprays and gum, however, so using any nicotine replacement products, except as a way to quit smoking, isn’t recommended.

Read more:


Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.