Public smoking bans do more than just clear the air in offices, bars and restaurants — they lead to quick and dramatic declines in heart attacks.
Two teams of researchers came to this conclusion after independently examining evidence from more than a dozen locales in the United States, Canada and Europe that had enacted smoking restrictions.
Not only was the drop in heart attacks almost immediate, the declines tended to be greater the longer the bans were in place, the researchers found.
After smoking restrictions went into effect, heart attack rates dropped an average of 26 percent in a year, one study found. After three years, heart attack rates were down by an average of 36 percent, according to the other study.
“We’re confident that the benefit is real,” said David Meyers of the University of Kansas Medical Center, lead author of one of the studies. “The effect of smoke on heart attack is huge.”
Meyers estimated conservatively that a nationwide public smoking ban would prevent as many as 156,400 heart attacks a year. Nonsmokers would benefit by limiting their exposure to secondhand smoke. Smokers would have a greater incentive to quit or cut back.
“I am embarrassed that the U.S. has not passed a national smoking ban, and yet Scotland, Ireland, Italy and France did,” Meyers said. “But those countries aren’t big tobacco producers, so it was politically easier.”
As of last year, 23 states and the District of Columbia had enacted comprehensive smoking restrictions, according to the American Lung Association.
And in recent years, most municipalities in the Kansas City area have banned smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants. Kansas City health officials have noted a drop in local heart attack deaths as these laws have taken effect.
Meyers’ study, which he did with KU colleagues John Neuberger and Jianghua He, is in the latest issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Also newly published in Circulation, the American Heart Association’s journal, is a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, that looked at much of the same data and came to similar conclusions.
Read the full story at KansasCity.com