Study Shows Smoke-Free Law Cuts Heart Attack Rate

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Apr. 1 2003

Washington, D.C. — As a growing number of communities and states across the country consider enacting smoke-free indoor workplace policies, a new study released today shows that the incidence of heart attacks in Helena, Montana, declined significantly in the six months after a new smoke-free indoor workplace law took effect there in June 2002. This study adds to the evidence that smoke-free workplace policies improve health and save lives and should spur communities across the country to act quickly to protect the health of their citizens.

Helena's comprehensive smoke-free workplace law is one of the strongest in the country. It prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars as well as most other workplaces and indoor public spaces. Numerous states, cities, towns and counties across the United States have also acted recently to protect their citizens' right to breath clean air, including Dallas, Delaware, New York State, New York City and Boston. Demonstrating the strong public support for such measures, 71 percent of Florida voters in November approved a comprehensive smoke-free law governing restaurants and most indoor workplaces.

The new study by researchers at St. Peter's Community Hospital in Helena and the University of California at San Francisco was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and is scheduled to be presented today at the 52nd Annual Scientific Sessions of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago. The study was conducted at St. Peter's Community Hospital in Helena, which is the only hospital serving cardiac patients in the region, with a population of 65,913. The study reviewed the charts of patients discharged with a primary or secondary diagnosis of acute myocardial infarctions (AMI) from December 1997 to February 2003, adjusting for seasonal effects. During the six-month period the smoke-free ordinance was in force, monthly AMI admissions dropped by 55 percent at the Helena hospital, while there was no significant change in the number of admissions outside Helena. This led the studies authors to conclude, "smoke-free ordinances may have a substantial immediate effect on heart disease morbidity."

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that exposure to secondhand smoke causes disease, disability and death. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens, including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210. A recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded, "Nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. The study found that even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer" among people who have never smoked. In addition to lung cancer, secondhand smoke is proven to cause heart disease, emphysema, and other illnesses and is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Study's show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma.

Further evidence on the benefits of smoke-free policies was shown last month in a study measuring the effects of Delaware's new smoke-free law. The study measured pollutants in several public venues before and after the state's new law took effect and showed that Delaware's new smoke-free indoor workplace law dramatically reduced exposure to air pollutants known to increase risk of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease and stroke.

Smoke-free air laws are good for the economy and business. Despite the tobacco industry's false claims that these measures can hurt business, the facts show that smoke-free laws do no harm, and can even improve business. One comprehensive study of restaurant sales tax data from 81 localities in six states found consistently that ordinances restricting smoking in restaurants had no effect on revenues. In addition, such laws, where enacted, reduce health care costs attributable to treating illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. A 1994 federal study showed, for example, that a ban on smoking in public places would save up to $72 billion in health care costs and lost productivity while also lowering insurance costs.

Today's new study should spur communities and states across the country to act now to protect the rights of their citizens to breathe clean, smoke-free air. The evidence is clear that such policies improve health and save lives.

Please contact Tony Iallonardo at 202-296-5469 to receive a copy of the study by fax or email.

 

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