A few years after smoking bans were implemented in many parts of the world, more and more evidence is accumulating pointing to the short-term as well as long term benefits of such legislation. A few weeks ago, researchers from Iceland reported the first noticeable benefits in their country at the European Society of Cardiology 2009 Congress.
In the US, a recent report from the Institute of medicine (IOM) indicates that it is not only the smokers themselves who benefit from the smoking bans, but also the nonsmokers in their vicinity. It seems that less secondhand smoke exposure lead to lower risk for heart attacks.
According to the report, a large proportion of the nonsmoking population in the US is exposed to secondhand or environmental smoke and this includes 43% of children and 37% of adults. An estimate from 2000 revealed that about 126 million nonsmoking Americans are exposed to cigarette smoke.
Smoking cigarette is undeniably linked to very high lung cancer risk among smokers. For smokers, quitting is the only way to be healthy. Smoking bans, however, are more for the benefit of the nonsmoking segment of the population who may be unwillingly exposed to secondhand second smoke in public places. There are skeptics which question the claims that antismoking laws benefit nonsmokers especially in terms of cardiovascular health.
To clarify things, an IOM committee of experts conducted a comprehensive analysis of published and unpublished data on the link between secondhand smoke and short-term and long-term heart problems. Their analysis revealed that
- Exposure to secondhand smoke increases risk for heart problems by 25 to 30%.
- Smoking bands lead to reductions in the incidence of heart attacks range from 6 to 47%
According to Dr. Lynn Goldman, professor of environmental health sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and chair of the committee:
“It’s clear that smoking bans work. Bans reduce the risks of heart attack in nonsmokers as well as smokers. Further research could explain in greater detail how great the effect is for each of these groups and how secondhand smoke produces its toxic effects. However, there is no question that smoking bans have a positive health effect.”
The message is clear: clean up the air, boost up health.
As of January 4, 2004, the state of antismoking legislation is the US is as follows (source: IOM report):
“…16,505 municipalities are covered by a 100% smoke-free provision in workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars by state, commonwealth or local law; this represents 70.2% of the US population. 37 states and the District of Columbia have local laws in effect that require 100% smoke-free workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars.”