Smoking bans cut down on heart attacks, research shows

Pushing smokers outside drives down hospitalizations for heart attacks by about 17 percent in the first year and 36 percent after three years, according to an analysis of 13 studies looking at heart-attack rates after smoking bans.

The analysis strengthens the studies’ individual findings, said coauthor James M. Lightwood.

It also provides further support for government-mandated elimination of smoking in bars, restaurants and other public venues, said a trio of Australian researchers whose editorial accompanied the research in the new issue ofCirculation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Acknowledging some limitations with the research, they wrote that “Clinicians should advise their patients to avoid public places that permit smoking, and families should be counseled not to smoke at home or in a vehicle with patients.”

The study was paid for by the National Cancer Institute.

“Basically what happens is you have a relatively quick decline in the community rate of heart attack,” said Lightwood, who is an assistant adjunct professor in the department of clinical pharmacy at the University of California.

Lightwood said the study strengthens existing research showing the heart risks associated with secondhand smoke.

No studies of Ohio heart-attack rates have been published since the smoking ban was enacted here, but one of the studies included in the analysis was conducted in Bowling Green.

Ohio’s statewide ban started in May 2007 and is currently being challenged by a Columbus bar owner who claims it is unconstitutional. Richard Allen, who owns Zeno’s Victorian Village, filed the suit after Attorney General Richard Cordray sued him for unpaid fines for repeatedly violating the ban.

It’s notoriously difficult to study a health program’s effects on the population, but the fact that multiple studies found similar reductions in heart-attack rates adds credence to the correlation between smoking bans and better health, said Dr. Doug Teske, a pediatric cardiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The findings aren’t surprising to Teske, who has long advocated for the elimination of smoking in public places.

The study has inherent limitations because of its design: It is an analysis of multiple observational studies, not a controlled randomized study comparing health outcomes in an area with a smoking ban to an area without a smoking ban.

The researchers could not differentiate between reduction in disease attributed to people quitting smoking after bans and to fewer heart attacks based on less exposure to secondhand smoke, Lightwood said.

The study authors identified many outcome-affecting variables that would be good to measure and analyze, he said.

For instance, a high rate of smoking inside homes would affect a community’s overall exposure to secondhand smoke and might have an impact on overall community-health measures, including the heart-attack rate.


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