Public Smoking Bans Seem to Help the Heart
Studies show that going smoke-free reduces heart attack rates
(HealthDay News) -- Snuffing out tobacco smoke in restaurants, bars and other public spaces appears to be yielding heart-healthy dividends.
Studies show that heart attack rates have plummeted -- by 17 percent in two studies -- in the year after smoking bans were implemented in public venues.
And one of the studies, from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, estimated that a nationwide prohibition on smoking in public places could prevent 156,000 new heart attacks a year.
Separately, a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that smoking bans reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
"It's clear that smoking bans work," Dr. Lynn Goldman, who chaired the institute committee that produced the report, said in a prepared statement.
"Bans reduce the risks of heart attack in nonsmokers as well as smokers," added Goldman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association, accounting for nearly 440,000 deaths a year.
Cigarette smoking alone increases the risk for heart diseases, and when combined with other factors, it greatly increases that risk, the heart association notes.
Even for those who do not smoke, inhaling secondhand smoke can have devastating health effects. Nonsmokers exposed to smoke at work or home boost their risk for heart disease by 25 to 30 percent, and their lung cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of its review, the Institute of Medicine examined 11 key studies to assess the link between secondhand smoke and heart problems. Smoking bans were associated with reductions in the incidence of heart attacks of 6 percent to 47 percent, leading the institute to conclude that smoke-free policies protect people from the cardiovascular effects of tobacco smoke.
The American Heart Association believes that smoke-free policies should apply to all workplaces and public environments without exception.
As of July 5, 35 states had laws in effect to ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants or bars, and 22 states ban smoking in all three venues, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.
Could public housing be next?
In a notice published July 17, 2009, the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, a unit of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, issued a memo that "strongly encourages" public housing authorities to implement nonsmoking policies in some or all public housing units.
Tobacco smoke "can migrate between units in multifamily housing, causing respiratory illness, heart disease, cancer, and other adverse health effects," the agency said in the memo.
Why quit smoking? According to the heart association, the many health benefits that smokers can realize by quitting include:
After a year off cigarettes, the excess risk of heart disease caused by smoking is cut in half; after 15 years, the risk returns to the level of those who never smoked.
In five to 15 years, the risk for stroke among former smokers returns to the level of those who've never smoked.
Men who quite smoking between the ages of 35 and 39 add an average of five years to their lives. Female quitters in this age group add three years. Men and women who quit at 65 to 69 years of age extend their life expectancy by a year.
On the Web
To learn more about why and how to quit smoking, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: HealthDay New; Sept. 21, 2009, Circulation; Sept. 29, 2009, Journal of the American College of Cardiology; Institute of Medicine, news release, Oct. 15, 2009; American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org); U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov); American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation (www.no-smoke.org); Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov)
Author: Karen Pallarito
Publication Date: Sept. 30, 2010
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