Mike Vuolo, an assistant professor of sociology at Purdue University who conducted the research when he was at the University of Minnesota, used data of self-reported cigarette use of people ages 15-24 in the original 15 EU countries.
The survey information was collected in the spring of 2002. There were 7,532 respondents with an average of 450 respondents per country.
In 2002, seven of the 15 European countries had restaurant smoking bans, Vuolo said.
"Enforcing a law certainly plays a role in influencing behavior," Vuolo said in a statement. "While the bans and policies create a physical obstacle to smoking, they also add a stigma that likely contributes to deterring young people from the habit."
The study also found local taxes and anti-tobacco campaigns were less effective in reducing smoking than bans and age limits.
There is an 18-year-old minimum tobacco purchase age in the United States, but in 2002 six countries in Europe had no minimum purchase age; three countries required consumers to be 18; and six countries required age 16.
In countries with no minimum purchase age, the probability of a young person smoking regularly was about 46 percent, compared with 30 percent in countries with age restrictions, the study said.