Mass. Smoking Ban Saving Lives, Taxpayer Dollars - Notes ASH

Massachusetts’ statewide smoking ban reduced heart attacks by over 7% a year, and saved million of dollars, according to a study about to be published in the American Journal of Public Health, notes Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
By: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Sept. 28, 2010 - PRLog -- Massachusetts’ statewide smoking ban reduced heart attacks by over 7% a year, according to a study about to be published in the American Journal of Public Health - a percentage which was apparently lower than in other jurisdictions in large part because many of the state's municipalities had already banned smoking by the time the state law went into effect.

Since each heart attack hospital admission can cost almost $15,000 to treat - even without including additional medical expenses for follow up care and long-term treatment - it is clear that Massachusetts is saving its citizens millions of dollars in unnecessary medical care costs, notes Professor John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first nonsmokers' rights organization.

New studies from many countries which have instituted comprehensive smoking bans likewise show that they are slashing the number of heart attacks, the major cause of death and of unnecessary health care expense in the U.S, says Banzhaf.

In a recent study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2009 Congress, a nationwide smoking ban in public places in ICELAND resulted in a very significant 21% reduction in acute coronary syndrome (ACS) among nonsmoking men in the five months after the ban was introduced.  A comprehensive smoking ban in ENGLAND produced a 10% drop in heart attacks, and SCOTLAND, which banned smoking a year earlier, had a 14% decline. FRANCE saw 15% drop in heart attacks after a year of its ban, and IRELAND and ITALY each recorded a 11% drop.

Studies in the U.S. has produced similar results, with some actually translating the decline in heart attacks into dollars saved. For example, a study from NEW YORK STATE shows that the decline was equivalent to 3,813 fewer annual hospital admissions for heart attacks. At an average cost of $14,772 for each heart-attack admission, the total savings is about $56.3 million – a saving achieved at virtually no cost, notes Banzhaf.

Secondhand tobacco smoke can be deadly, particularly for older Americans, and especially if they are obese, have high blood pressure or cholesterol, or have a family or personal history of cardiovascular problems.  Indeed, as little as 30 minutes of exposure can trigger a heart attack, the government warns.

The Centers for Disease Controls [CDC] reported: “Could eating in a smoky restaurant precipitate an acute myocardial infarction in a non-smoker? . . a growing body of scientific data suggests that this is possible . . . laboratory data suggest that even 30 minutes of exposure to a typical dose of secondhand smoke induces changes in arterial endothelial function in exposed non-smokers of a magnitude similar to those measured in active smokers.”

The U.S. Surgeon General didn't mince any words when he warned: "The bottom line is that breathing secondhand smoke makes it more likely that you will get heart disease, have a heart attack, and die early. . . . Even a short time in a smoky room causes your blood platelets to stick together. Secondhand smoke also damages the lining of your blood vessels. In your heart, these bad changes can cause a deadly heart attack."

The reason, explains Banzhaf, is that exposure to even the small amounts of secondhand tobacco smoke drifting into the no-smoking section of a restaurant or other public place can increase the nonsmoker's risk of a heart attack to virtually that of a smoker.

For example, as one study noted: "People with no risk factors for heart disease can still experience heart attacks. An Indiana University study found that after a countywide smoking ban was implemented, hospital admissions for such heart attacks dropped 70 percent for non-smokers -- but not for smokers. . . . Exposure to second-hand smoke for just 30 minutes can rapidly increase a person's risk for heart attack, even if they have no risk factors. The smoke, which contains carbon monoxide, causes blood vessels to constrict and reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood."

A study in Circulation magazine entitled “Cardiovascular Effects of Secondhand Smoke – Nearly as Large as Smoking” reported that: “the effects of even brief (minutes to hours) passive smoking are often nearly as large (averaging 80% to 90%) as chronic active smoking,”

Similarly, another article in a medical journal with the intriguing title of “Second-hand Smoke - License to Kill Due to Expire” concluded that: "While the dose of smoke delivered to passive smokers is approximately 100 times smaller than that delivered to an active smoker, the effects of even brief (minutes to hours) passive smoking are often nearly as large (averaging 80–90%) as chronic active smoking."

ASH, one of the major organizations behind a new international nonsmokers' rights treaty, helps coordinate efforts to use the treaty to require countries to ban smoking in public places - an effort which has already resulted in dozens of countries going virtually smokefree. ASH explains just how deadly secondhand tobacco smoke can be in:

"At a time when we are seeking cost savings to help reform health care, imagine the cost savings if we could reduce the incidents of heart attacks - the major preventable cause of medical costs in the U.S. - by 10% or more by making the U.S. smokefree like England, Ireland, Iceland, France, and other countries."

Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
America’s First Antismoking Organization
2013 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006, USA
(202) 659-4310 // (703) 527-8418

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Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first anti-smoking and nonsmokers' rights organization, serves as the legal action arm of the anti-smoking community. It is supported by tax-deductible contributions.
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Tags:Smoking Ban, Heart Attack, Banzhaf, Massachusetts, Cdc, Acute Coronary Syndrome (acs), Ash, Medical Costs, Law
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