According to two new public health studies, smoking bans can lead to a dramatic reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and heart- or stroke-related hospitalization rates.
The first study compared health statistics in the time before and after two separate smoking bans — a workplace ban in 2002 and a bar smoking ban in 2007 — were instituted in a Minnesota county. The second study scoured dozens of reports on anti-smoking laws across multiple countries and U.S. cities to assess their impact on public health trends. And according to CBS News, the results from both indicate that regions that take action against public smoking experience substantial health benefits:
For [Dr. Richard Hurt’s] study, published in the Oct. 29 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers at the Mayo Clinic looked at the number of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths that occurred in the 18-month period before and after smoke-free laws were passed in a particular town. […]
By comparing data from before and after both laws were implemented, researchers found heart attacks fell by 33 percent from about 151 to 101 heart attacks per 100,000 people due to the laws, and the incidence of sudden cardiac death declined by 17 percent from 109 to 92 incidents per 100,000 people. […]
The next study, published Oct. 29 in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, looked at the link between smoke-free legislation and hospitalization rates. […]
They found comprehensive smoke-free laws were associated with a “rapid” 15 percent decrease in hospitalizations caused by heart attacks and a 16 percent drop in stroke-related hospitalizations. The laws were also tied to a rapid 24 percent fall in rates of hospitalizations caused by respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The most comprehensive laws — such as those that applied to workplaces, public areas, restaurants and bars — were linked to the greatest health benefits.
Researchers from both studies conclude that public officials should pursue stringent anti-smoking policies to reduce the incidence of smoking-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and emergency room costs. Dr. Stanton Glantz of the University of California study went as far as to say, “The public, health professionals and policy makers need to understand that including exemptions and loopholes in legislation — such as exempting casinos — condemns more people to end up in emergency rooms… These unnecessary hospitalizations are the real cost of failing to enact comprehensive smoke-free legislation.”
And as ThinkProgress has previously reported, states that pursue aggressive anti-smoking efforts — such as California and Washington — experience significant returns on their investments through lower health care costs. Since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in America, public smoking bans and other anti-smoking efforts present lawmakers with a simple means for reducing health care costs and increasing Americans’ well-being.