The research, carried out in Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and the Netherlands, found that a significant proportion of smokers also decided to ban smoking in their own homes after national public smoke-free laws were introduced.
Some opponents of workplace or public smoking bans have argued that smoke-free laws might lead to a displacement of the habit into smokers' homes, possibly increasing the exposure of non-smokers, particularly children, to second-hand smoke.
But Ute Mons of the German Cancer Research Center and the Unit of Cancer Prevention at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control in Heidelberg, whose work was published in the journal Tobacco Control, said her findings suggested just the opposite.
"On the contrary, our findings demonstrate that smoke-free legislation may stimulate smokers to establish total smoking bans in their homes," she wrote in the study.
Smoking is known to cause lung cancer, which is often fatal, and other chronic respiratory diseases. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, the world's number one killers.
The WHO warned last year that tobacco would kill nearly 6 million people in 2011 including 600,000 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. It fears the annual tobacco death toll will rise to 8 million by 2030.
The research was based on two surveys conducted in 2003/4 and 2008/9 and involved more than 4,600 smokers in the four countries with smoke-free legislation, as well as 1,080 smokers in Britain which served as comparison country at a time when it had no public smoke-free laws.
Before bans came into force, most smokers had at least partial restrictions on smoking at home, although the proportions varied significantly among all four countries, with the highest levels of restrictions in Germany and France, the researchers found.
But after smoke-free legislation was enacted, the percentage of smokers who banned smoking at home rose by 25 per cent in Ireland, 17 per cent in France, 38 per cent in Germany and 28 per cent in the Netherlands, the study showed.