Nov. 14 2005
Washington, DC — AA new study released today found that heart attack rates in Pueblo, Colorado, declined by nearly 30 percent after the city implemented a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law, including restaurants and bars, in July 2003. The new study is consistent with findings of an earlier study that found the number of heart attacks declined by 40 percent in Helena, Montana, during the six months that city’s smoke-free law was in effect in 2002. The results of these studies should not be a surprise in light of the overwhelming evidence that secondhand smoke poses serious, even life-threatening risks to health and provide further reason to conclude that smoke-free laws deliver immediate, life-saving health benefits. The more we learn about the dangers of secondhand smoke the more unacceptable it becomes for anyone to be exposed to these hazards in order to earn a paycheck or go out to a restaurant or bar. States and local elected officials have a growing obligation to enact smoke-free laws that protect everyone’s health and right to breathe clean air.
The new study was conducted by a consortium of Colorado researchers and released today at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference in Dallas. The study compared the number of heart attack hospital admissions in Pueblo during the 18 months before and the 18 months after the city’s smoke-free law took effect on July 1, 2003. It found a 27 percent decrease in the number of heart attacks in Pueblo after the law took effect, while there was no significant change in the rate of heart attacks in an adjacent county that did not have a smoke-free law.
The Pueblo study reinforces the earlier Helena findings in significant ways. It involved a sample size three times larger than the one used in Helena and was conducted over a longer period of time. The Helena study, published in the British Medical Journal in April 2004, found that the number of heart attacks fell by 40 percent during the six months Helena’s smoke-free law was in effect, but rose to previous levels after the law was suspended due to a legal challenge. Together, these studies provide compelling new evidence that smoke-free laws can quickly improve health and save lives by reducing the number of heart attacks. The conclusions of these studies are reinforced by the scientific evidence about the impact of secondhand smoke on cardiovascular health. Other studies have found that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease among non-smokers by as much as 60 percent and that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger harmful cardiovascular changes, such as increased blood clotting, that increase the risk of a heart attack. Because of these risks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April 2004 advised the 64 million Americans with cardiovascular disease to avoid indoor settings where smoking is allowed.
The Pueblo study adds to the mountain of evidence that secondhand smoke poses a serious threat to human health. In addition to heart disease, secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma, low-weight births, and sudden infant death syndrome, and it is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States, according to the CDC. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and at least 69 known carcinogens.
Because of these risks, people across America are speaking up for their right to breathe clean air. Washington state voters last week overwhelming approved a ballot initiative to make all workplaces smoke-free, including restaurants and bars. Washington becomes the ninth state to have a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Florida, Idaho, Utah and Montana have passed statewide smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars (Montana’s statewide law took effect in October 2005, long after the Helena law was suspended, and will extend to bars in 2009). Hundreds of cities and counties have taken action as well, as have whole countries including Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Italy and New Zealand.
The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Dozens of studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and may even have a positive impact. An April 2005 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that Massachusetts’ smoke-free law did not affect sales or employment in the state’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs after taking effect on July 5, 2004. Some of the strongest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that in the year after the city’s smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars increased, employment rose, the number of liquor licenses increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law. Even among bar and restaurant owners, support for New York’s law has grown. James McBratney, President of the Staten Island Restaurant and Tavern Association, was quoted in the Feb. 6, 2005, issue of The New York Times saying ''I have to admit, I've seen no falloff in business in either establishment [restaurant or bar].'' According to The Times, “He went on to describe what he once considered unimaginable: Customers actually seem to like it, and so does he.”