The People's Perspective on Medicine

Smoking Bans Save Lives

Smoking bans really do make a big difference for health. That’s the conclusion from a study published in the journal Circulation. Researchers looked at 45 studies in several countries including the U.S., England, Germany and New Zealand. The studies were designed to compare the rates of hospitalization or death due to heart attacks, strokes and respiratory diseases such as asthma or emphysema before and after legislation barring public smoking.

When people could no longer smoke in restaurants, bars or their place of work, hospital admission and deaths from these conditions dropped significantly. The reduction in hospitalization for heart attacks was approximately 15 percent, while respiratory disease hospitalizations dropped by around 24 percent. The most comprehensive bans had the biggest impact.

These findings are closely aligned with those from a separate study by the Mayo Clinic published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Banning smoking in restaurants alone had little if any effect on heart attacks, but a comprehensive ban that covered all workplaces as well as restaurants and bars, resulted in 33 percent fewer heart attacks. The bans, combined with an increase in taxes on cigarettes, apparently encouraged more people to quit. A higher proportion of people reported that their homes were smoke free in 2010 than in 2007 before the smoking ban laws passed.

[Circulation, Oct. 30, 2012; Archives of Internal Medicine, October 22, 2012].

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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