They are definitely already reaping the fruits of their early labor while some of their neighbors are still arguing, fighting, lagging behind – and dying. The Italians, the French, and now the Icelanders are feeling the benefits of smoking bans. In a study recently presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2009 Congress, researchers from Iceland reported a significant 21% reduction in acute coronary syndrome (ACS) among non-smoking men. In just 5 months!
The benefits of smoking bans
Smoking bans save lives. The long-term adverse effects of cigarette smoking on smokers are well-known. It is a major risk factor in several types of cancer, especially lung and oral cancer. It is also implicated in cardiovascular disease. However, it is only recently known what the full impact of second-smoke is on the non-smoking population. Studies have shown that second-hand smoke has immediate effects on the cardiovascular system. This Icelandic study shows that anti-smoking legislation in public places has immediately benefits.
Smoking bans save money. The researchers estimate that smoking-related illness in Iceland costs an equivalent of $234 million in health care expenditure each year. The state gets only $56 million from taxes from tobacco sales. That leaves a net cost of $178 million health care cost. When it comes to cost-benefit ratio, this is a no-brainer.
The effect of the ban was significantly evident in men but not in women. There may be several reasons for this, namely:
- Women may be protected by their hormones. Female hormones have been shown to have cardioprotective properties that wane once menopause sets in. “Before menopause, women have healthy hormones, so that could be a reason for the difference, that women are not affected as much from smoking at that particular age”, according to Dr Werner Benzer of the Medical University of Vienna, Austria.
- Women tend to go to smoky environments (bars, etc.) when they are young but less frequently once they enter motherhood. Men, on the other hand, are exposed to second-hand smoke regardless of age.
This doesn’t mean that the smoking ban does not benefit women. It does, but the effects are not as easily seen as in men.
According to author Dr Thorarinn Gudnason of Landspitali University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland
“The 21% reduction that we saw in our study is comparable to what is seen with some of the most potent therapies in cardiovascular medicine… if this is a true effect, the smoking ban will be very beneficial for public health, and it will also be very cost effective.”
I say, way to go, Iceland. And I hope that the laggards in smoking legislations in Europe will get their act together soon. It’s all about saving lives – and money.
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