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Two weeks after UK smoking ban, text messaging surges

Indoor smoking bans have been in effect in plenty of places in the US for quite some time now. In all that time, there hasn’t been much said about any related effects of these bans — except, of course, the number of people leaving and re-entering bars and clubs. We’re sure hand-stamping has gone up, but other than that, there haven’t been many reports to that effect. Well, a smoking ban went into effect in the UK in July, and in the first two weeks they saw a noticeable change: 7.5 million more text messages were sent than in the previous two-week period.

Of course, it could be a mere coincidence; small sample sizes tend to be deceiving. Still, though, a spike of 7.5 million messages is out of the ordinary. If it was 3.5 million, we’d easily chalk it up to coincidence. But 7.5 million? It seems that a correlation exists — at least for now.

The sharp increase has been attributed to smokers keeping themselves occupied as they’re forced outdoors and away from their mates. Many are also turning to their phones as a distraction and a way to avoid temptation.

We’re not so sure we agree with those assessments, though. Yes, smokers could feel isolated when they head outside for a few drags. But from our experience, it’s rare for someone to go out alone. Even if there aren’t multiple smokers in the group, a non-smoker is bound to go out with the person while he or she smokes, just to talk. No, that’s not scientific, but neither are the findings in the above paragraph.

We also don’t think it’s a distraction from temptation, per se. We know plenty of smokers who simply need to have something in their hands at all times. If they’re not able to reach for a cigarette, they’re apt to reach for their cell phone, as the keypad will keep their hands more than occupied.

Expect this to be a short-term trend, though. Orange, the British telecom that reported the spike, might be doing the happy dance right now because of the increased SMS revenue. But we’re pretty sure it’s a temporary thing until everyone gets used to the new rules.

[Cellular News]