Blog | Monday, September 21, 2009

Smokers finding air becoming rare in which to indulge

Kids playing at Edwin Pratt Park, 2002 from the Seattle Municipal Archives via FlickrOutdoor smoking faces bans in big cities as the largest review to date concludes that public smoking bans reduce heart attacks by 26% annually, and the effects can be measured in as few as six months.

New York City’s health commissioner said a week ago that he wanted to ban smoking at parks and beaches. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg released a response that he wanted "to see if smoking in parks has a negative impact on people’s health."

Yeah, it does, according to research in the Sept. 29 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 reports from 11 geographic locations in the North America and Europe compared heart attack rates before and after public smoking bans. The studies involved 24 million people and observations of the effect of the bans ranged from two months to three years.

Thirty-two states and cities have banned smoking in public places and workplaces. Recently entering into the fray is Rockville, Md., which voted the same night as New York's proposal to ban smoking within 40 feet of city parks and may push for a more comprehensive ban. A nationwide ban on public smoking could prevent as many as 154,000 heart attacks each year, the study concluded.

Steven Schroeder, MACP, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center University of California, San Francisco, said, "Several years ago, the idea that secondhand smoke was harmful to the heart was a theory and one with some controversy attached, but this article moves us from the theoretical to fact and to practice. The reduction in heart attacks associated with public smoking bans is a big deal."