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Smoking Ban Slashed Heart Attack Rate 40%


April 13, 2004

Ketchikan, AK - A new study released this week by the British Medical Journal shows that the health benefits of a comprehensive smokefree workplace law may be much more immediate than previously thought - resulting in a decline of 40% in the number of heart attacks.

The study, authored by Richard P. Sargent, MD, Robert M. Shepard, MD, and Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, looked at the number of hospital admissions in Helena, Montana for acute myocardial infarctions (AMI) during a sixth month period, compared those numbers to the

"Smokefree indoor air is a mainstream idea whose time has come."...
Kattaryna Stiles of Alaskans for Tobacco Free Kids
same time period in the previous four years, and looked at figures for the surrounding area not affected by the smokefree law. The doctors found a 40% drop in admissions for heart attacks from people living or working in Helena, where a smokefree ordinance was in effect, and no change for people living farther away.

According to Dr. Glantz, "This is not the first study to find a link between long term exposure to secondhand smoke and heart attacks. There is a mountain of evidence that this connection exists. It is, however, the first study to show the rapid community level benefits of a smokefree policy. This study shows that a comprehensive indoor smokefree law reduces heart attacks immediately."

"There is a direct correlation between secondhand smoke and heart disease," stated Jenna App, Alaska Advocacy Director at the American Heart Association. "This study validates that there are immediate and substantial health benefits to a community as a result of smokefree workplace policies." The study points out that even 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke increases blood platelet stickiness, which can lead to blood clots. In addition, arteries narrow after exposure to secondhand smoke, so smaller clots cause more damage, and there is an increase in heart rhythm problems associated with heart attacks.

Over 1700 U.S. communities and several states have enacted local smokefree workplace laws. There are at least a dozen communities in Alaska with some type of formal smokefree ordinance, including Juneau, Anchorage, Bethel, and Barrow.

The Ketchikan City Council recently opposed a smokefree ordinance. "The City Council had a clear opportunity to protect workers, the elderly, children and all of us who live in the community," stated Marya Tyler, chair of the Tongass Tobacco-Free Alliance. "With studies showing such a clear and immediate relationship between heart attacks and cigarette smoke, it's unfortunate that enough council members did not rise to the occasion."

"Smokefree indoor air is a mainstream idea whose time has come," according to Kattaryna Stiles of Alaskans for Tobacco Free Kids "As the public has learned more about the health dangers associated with secondhand smoke, people have supported smokefree polices as a way to address this easily preventable cause of premature death and chronic disease." This study is further evidence that smokefree ordinances rapidly benefit everyone in a community, including residents and workers, who as a result of these policies are less exposed to a the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke, reducing their risk of disease and death from secondhand smoke exposure.

"Since 1995, the rate of youth smoking has dropped by 50%, which shows that attitudes toward smoking are changing," stated Michelle Toohey of the American Lung Association of Alaska. "But Alaska still has smoking rates higher than the national average, which means we need to continue to be diligent in our prevention efforts." Smokefree workplace policies help change social norms regarding smoking behaviors and help to reduce overall tobacco consumption.

The study follows on the heels of other recent smokefree air news:

  • Last week, New York City issued a report celebrating the one-year anniversary of its smokefree workplace law, which shows that business is up and New Yorkers overwhelmingly embrace the law.
  • Ireland became the first European country to go smokefree in all workplaces, including pubs on March 29.
  • The bar provision of Connecticut's smokefree law went into effect, April 1.
  • Idaho's Governor signed a strong statewide smokefree bill into law, April 2.
  • This year is the 40th Anniversary of the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and
  • Health, the first federal study that identified tobacco as a health hazard.
  • This year also marks the 10th anniversary of California's statewide smokefree workplace law.



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