Cities and state all over the country are passing smoking bans, virtually eliminating smoking in most indoor public places. While smokers are annoyed that they have to go outside to satisfy their nicotine addiction, a new study says the rest of the population is benefiting. It says smoking bans can reduce heart attacks by up to 36%.
A team from the University of California-San Francisco pooled data from 13 studies of smoking bans in communities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Researcher James Lightwood said the prior studies were inconsistent in their findings. But there was one consistent fact: "A well-designed smoking restriction law can significantly reduce heart attacks in the community and has a beneficial impact on public health," he told Reuters.
The research found heart attack rates fall immediately after smoking bans are put in place, dropping by 17 percent in the first year and by as much as 36 percent after three years. Lightwood wrote:
"This study adds to the already strong evidence that secondhand smoke causes heart attacks, and that passing 100 percent smoke-free laws in all workplaces and public places is something we can do to protect the public."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can raise heart disease rates in adult nonsmokers by 25 percent to 30 percent. And the CDC and American Heart Association say secondhand smoke kills an estimated 46,000 Americans every year from heart disease alone.
Of course, there are those who claim second hand smoke is not as dangerous as it is being portrayed. One such smokers rights group is called C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment). It claims reports like these are "junk science," and that news accounts of the studies are biased. C.L.A.S.H. writes on its website:
"Whether it is a reporter with no concept of what it is they are actually reporting, simply relaying the study du jour, or a health organization or researcher submitting a report, none of what they say can be taken at face value. News reports are manipulated and then hyped, as are practically all of the studies on secondhand smoke. Smokers or non-smokers who want to see accurate scientific data on the issue of tobacco smoke are not going to get it from the media, politicians or public health officials."
The National Cancer Institute begs to differ. It says on its website:
"There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Studies have shown that even low levels of secondhand smoke exposure can be harmful. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure is to completely eliminate smoking in indoor spaces."