Smoking Ban Lowers Heart Attacks in Rome
> 2/13/2008 2:43:09 PM

Last week, the World Health Organization released the grim Report of the Global Tobacco Epidemic. Among the many problems identified in the report is the fact that "only 5% of the global population is protected by comprehensive national smoke-free legislation." This is distressing news, because the evidence of the danger of smoking piles higher every day. Against those who might argue that smoking bans are not effective, we can now present a study in Circulation that links a city-wide ban directly to a drop in heart attacks.

Dr. Francesco Forastiere and his team zeroed in on January 2005, the date of the ratification of a public smoking ban in Rome. When they compared heart-attack rates from 2000-2004 with the numbers after the ban, they found a significant decline: 11.2% among 35- to 64-year-olds and 7.9% among 65- to 74-year-olds. Heart-attacks are too rare among the very young and too complicated among the very old to reveal unambiguous correlations.

The decline retained significance even when a variety of potentially confounding factors were controlled for. Air pollution, temperature, flu, and city-wide hospitalization rates were all taken into account. The city was not cooler or cleaner, but it was free of cigarette smoke and that made a huge difference. Cigarette sales did drop by 5.5%, but the authors of this study believe that the reduction in second-hand smoke had the greatest impact on public health.

Heart-attacks are just one of the many terrible health consequences of tobacco smoke. It is likely that many more thousands of lives are saved every year in Rome from cancer and disease because of the smoking ban. Hopefully, the WHO report along with this clear evidence of ban effectiveness will help secure protection for the 95% of the world population still exposed to smoke in public spaces.

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