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September 23rd, 2009:

Studies show smoking bans cut heart attacks – Findings support restrictions, say researchers

Reuters in Chicago

Smoking bans in public places can significantly reduce the number of heart attacks, two US research teams have reported.

One team found smoking bans in the United States, Canada and Europe had an immediate effect that increased over time, cutting heart attacks by 17 per cent after the first year and as much as 36 per cent after three years, they reported in the journal Circulation.

A second team found such bans reduced the annual heart attack rate by 26 per cent. Their report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology estimates a nationwide ban in the United States could prevent as many as 154,000 heart attacks each year.

Both research teams said the findings supported the adoption of widespread bans on smoking in enclosed public places to prevent heart attacks and improve public health.

“Public smoking bans seem to be tremendously effective in reducing heart attacks and, theoretically, might also help to prevent lung cancer and emphysema, diseases that develop much more slowly than heart attacks,” said Dr David Meyers, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, who led the study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Even breathing in low doses of cigarette smoke can increase one’s risk of heart attack.”

Smoking bans have been enacted in countries all over the world. In the United States, 32 states ban smoking in public places and workplaces, as do many cities and other localities.

Meyers and colleagues analysed data from 10 studies on smoking bans in the US, Canada and Europe to compare rates of heart attacks before and after public smoking bans.

They found women and younger people were most likely to benefit, possibly because they often work in or frequent bars and restaurants where smoking is common.

Dr James Lightwood, of the University of California, San Francisco, who worked on the study in Circulation, said earlier studies had been inconsistent in their findings, but their analysis found that smoking bans had a compelling effect.

“This study adds to the already strong evidence that second-hand smoke causes heart attacks, and that passing 100 per cent smoke-free laws in all workplaces and public places is something we can do to protect the public,” Lightwood said.

A spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association, Andy Deloney, said he had not seen the latest studies but remained sceptical about research findings that showed immediate health benefits. He said tobacco smoke was just one of many factors that influenced heart disease.

Deloney said many Michigan restaurants were choosing to ban smoking and using that as a competitive edge. In Michigan, where there is no statewide smoking ban, about 5,700 restaurants are smoke-free, compared with 2,200 in 1998.

But he thinks the choice should be up to restaurants. “We couldn’t care less if all of the restaurants in Michigan went smoke-free – as long as it’s their choice,” he said. A spokesman for the National Restaurant Association said his organisation had not been involved in the issue.

Long-term exposure to second-hand smoke can raise heart disease rates in adult non-smokers by 25 per cent to 30 per cent, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Second-hand smoke kills an estimated 46,000 Americans every year from heart disease alone, the CDC and US Heart Association say. Smoking also causes several types of cancer, stroke and emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.