Public Smoking Bans Cut Heart Attack Rates; Cost Less than Healthcare Reform.

SmokesHere is a story that is getting considerable play in the press today. It seems that heart attack rates associated with breathing secondhand smoke dropped rapidly and continued to decrease over time after smoking was banned in public spaces.

An article appearing on the website medpage Today cited a study that found that “The number of acute myocardial infarctions dropped by an average of 17% a year after smoking bans were put into effect, compared with communities with no such smoking restrictions.”

The article goes on to say, “The decline in heart attacks continued in subsequent years, with rates dropping by about 36% within three years of smoking prohibitions taking effect.”

“Passage of strong smokefree legislation produces rapid and substantial benefits in terms of reduced acute myocardial infarctions, and these benefits grow with time,” wrote James M. Lightwood, PhD, and Stanton Glantz, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco in a meta-analysis published in the Sept. 21 issue of Circulation.

The Kansas City Star was also reporting today that David Meyers of the University of Kansas Medical Center, lead author of a second study which reached similar conclusions, said that a nationwide public smoking ban would prevent as many as 156,400 heart attacks a year.

Other countries have banned public smoking.

Meyers went on to say, “I am embarrassed that the U.S. has not passed a national smoking ban, and yet Scotland, Ireland, Italy and France did,” Meyers said. “But those countries aren’t big tobacco producers, so it was politically easier.”

Now, let’s check that list of World Health Organization’s[1] ranking of the world’s health systems. Yes, the one that lists the United States in 37th place. Listed first and second are France and Italy. The United Kingdom, (which I presume includes Scotland) is 18th followed by Ireland at 19th.

Along with high obesity rates in the U.S., could there be a link between not having a national ban on smoking in public spaces and our country’s poor ranking among the world’s health systems?

As the Senate Finance Committee holds hearings this week on a plan to spend $774 billion to provide insurance coverage for an additional 29 million uninsured nonelderly people by 2019, would it not make better sense for us to all to start making the right personal choices that collectively will lead to a healthier society?

[1] The World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems was last produced in 2000, and the WHO no longer produces such a ranking table, because of the complexity of the task.

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