Public Smoking Bans Could Reduce Overall Heart Attack Rates; Dangers of Second-Hand Smoke on Heart Health
On 1 July 2003, Pueblo, Colo banned cigarette smoking in work venues as well as other indoor public places. Three years after the change in legislation, the hospitalization rate from heart attacks fell from a pre-ban figure of 257 per 100,000 people to 153 per 100,000 people.
Could there be other reasons? In the two adjacent communities, no such fall in statistics was noted.
These are the findings of a 3-year study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While not conclusive, they are statistically significant – we are talking about a fall in heart attack hospitalizations of over 40% in a mere 3-year period.
We all know, of course, of the long list of harmful effects of second-hand smoke. In fact, the list continues to get longer with time. But most of us associate cigarette smoke with lung conditions – could the effect on heart health be so pronounced?
Why not? In fact, a few other recent studies have noted the negative impact of air pollution (from other sources, including heavy traffic) on heart health. And it seems the impact on heart lung tends to be more immediate than adverse effects on lung health.
“This study is very dramatic. This is now the ninth study, so it is clear that smoke-free laws are one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to reduce heart attacks,” said Dr Michael Thun, an American Cancer Society researcher who was not part of the study team.
The study does have several limitations. Firstly, it did not measure specific smoke levels in indoor areas. Also, among the heart attack sufferers, there was no distinction between smokers and non-smoker. In addition – and this is, in my opinion, an important point – the team did not try to establish if it was the cutting down of first-hand smoke or second-hand smoke which caused the fall in heart attack rate.
Either way, though, I think it is very clear that smoking is terrible for health in many ways, and not just heart health. I used to smoke for many years, too. Stopping was a difficult thing to do, but also clearly a very worthwhile choice; I’m so much better off in so many ways since my last stick.
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