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Study claims smoking ban leads to fewer heart attack deaths

Consider this to be a data point in the ongoing debate over a potential statewide smoking ban in bars, restaurants, and other indoor workplaces.

A smoking ban in one Colorado city led to a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalizations within three years, a sign of just how serious a health threat secondhand smoke is, government researchers said today.

The study, the longest-running of its kind, showed the rate of hospitalized cases dropped 41 percent in the three years after the ban of workplace smoking in Pueblo, Colo., took effect. There was no such drop in two neighboring areas, and researchers believe it’s a clear sign the ban was responsible.

The study suggests that secondhand smoke may be a terrible and under-recognized cause of heart attack deaths in this country, said one of its authors, Terry Pechacek of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least eight earlier studies have linked smoking bans to decreased heart attacks, but none ran as long as three years. The new study looked at heart attack hospitalizations for three years following the July 1, 2003 enactment of Pueblo’s ban, and found declines as great or greater than those in earlier research.

“This study is very dramatic,” said Dr. Michael Thun, a researcher with the American Cancer Society.

“This is now the ninth study, so it is clear that smoke-free laws are one of the most effective and cost-effective to reduce heart attacks,” said Thun, who was not involved in the CDC study to be released Thursday.

The study is dramatic but not necessarily conclusive, as it didn’t take some other possible factors into account, such as an overall decline in smoking in Pueblo. Of course, it’s also possible that some number of people quit smoking once it became impossible, or at least highly inconvenient, for them to smoke at work. The point is that there’s a clearly identifiable public health benefit to such bans, and that the benefits accrue to people who are not taking part in the unhealthy behavior. I say that since several people complained in the comments that the next step would be to ban unhealthy food. The key distinction is that your Big Mac habit doesn’t threaten my health. Like this or not, expect to hear more about it in the spring, when the Lege debates Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Myra Crownover’s bills.

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One Comment

  1. Sam says:

    And by the way, smoking in bars doses not threaten my health unless I go into a bar where smoking is permitted. And even then, I have about as much a chance of becoming ill from cigarettes as I do of being struck by lightening out of the clear blue sky. I can easily choose not to enter a bar. And the other hand I have to use the public roads, where I am at risk of of an auto accident by a drinker coming from a smoke-free bar. No matter how sweet smelling he is, I am just as dead or maimed. This whole issue is easily solved by requiring bar owners to post a sign, smoking or no smoking. If you prefer non smoking, don’t go in there. That way, nobody loses his job or his business.