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Fewer heart attacks following smoking ban

Study shows 1200 fewer admissions during the first year of ban

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

There were 1200 fewer emergency heart attack hospital admissions during the 12 month period after the introduction of smoke-free laws in England.

These are the findings from a study published today on bmj.com. The research, led by Dr Anna Gilmore from the University of Bath, shows that the introduction of a law where all enclosed workplaces and public places in England became smoke-free was followed by a 2.4% reduction in heart attack admissions and this has important public health benefits given the high rates of heart disease globally.

It has long been established that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and smoke-free laws have been introduced in different countries, states and cities to tackle this issue.

In order to investigate the impact of smoke-free laws in England, which were introduced on 1 July 2007, the authors collected data on emergency hospital admissions for patients aged 18 or older from July 2002 to September 2008. They subsequently compared the records for the five years before the introduction of smoke-free laws to the period after legislation came into force.

Previous research looking at the effects of smoke-free legislation have had varying results with the largest reductions in heart attack admissions being reported in smaller US studies.

Dr Gilmore’s research has a number of advantages to previous studies – firstly the size (with a population of 49 million, England is the largest jurisdiction to go smoke-free) and secondly, the authors adjusted the data to take into account underlying trends in admissions and variations in other factors such as seasonal temperature and population size.

The authors also speculate that a further reason for a smaller reduction in heart admissions in their study is because smoke-free legislation in England was introduced at a time when many public places and workplaces were already smoke-free.

Dr Michelle Sims, first author of the paper, explained, "a 2.4% reduction may sound small, but given we were looking at the whole of England it actually means the prevention of 1200 emergency admissions during the first year of the smoke-free law."

Dr Gilmore concludes that smoke-free public places may result in reductions in hospital admissions for heart attacks, even in countries with pre-existing smoking restrictions. She adds that given the high rate of heart attacks, "even the relatively small reduction seen in England has important public health benefits." 

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