OTHER VIEWS: Smoking bans work

  • Posted: Saturday, November 17, 2012 6:25 p.m.

Pharmacies would be overrun if a new drug came on the market that reduced the rate of heart attacks by 33 percent.

While this medical intervention does exist, it doesnít come in pill form. Instead, itís a public policy-smoke-free workplace laws, whose value regrettably continues to be challenged on ideological grounds. A recent commentary appearing on these pages-one that recycled arguments about government overreach-was one of the latest salvos.

But a new study led by Mayo Clinicís Dr. Richard Hurt serves up more evidence that existing smoking bans not only make sense but should be adopted more widely. The team of researchers filled in an important research gap on smoking bansí value. In 2009, an Institute of Medicine committee combed through existing studies and concluded ďthere is a causal relationship between smoking bans and decreases in acute coronary events.Ē But the committee didnít quantify the risk reduction, and it quibbled with some studiesí design.

The population-based study from Hurtís team did come up with numbers. They also used Minnesotaís renowned medical databank-the Rochester Epidemiology Project Ė which should minimize scientific quibbling.

Researchers found that the incidence of heart attacks decreased by 33 percent in one Minnesota county after smoke-free laws were put in place there beginning in 2002. Researchers ruled out other explanations, such as growing use of automated external defibrillators.

The study appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Studies of smoking bans in other areas have documented decreases in heart attack hospitalizations. This impressive body of work not only justifies smoking bansí value, but underscores the danger of secondhand smoke. Breathing it in has immediate cardiovascular effects. There is no risk-free dose, according to a 2006 U.S. Surgeon Generalís report. Public safeguards are sensible, and more such laws are needed.

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