Stepping out of your office for a quick smoke break? You might now be praised as a public health icon. Workplaces and restaurants that have put in place smoking bans limiting smoking to outside areas only have managed to improve Americans’ health, in spite of rising levels of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, says a new study. The study was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It was focused on Olmsted County in Minnesota. The study tracked the rate of heart attacks and sudden heart attack deaths in the aftermath of the smoking bans that cleared the Olmsted County restaurants, bars and workplaces of the potentially hazardous tobacco smoke.
Banning indoor use of tobacco smoke from restaurants and workplaces has driven down the rate of heart attacks by one-third in Olmsted County. It has reduced the sudden cardiac death rates in Olmsted by 17%. One interesting finding in the study was that banning smoking only in restaurants did not have an impact on the rate of heart attacks. But once phase 2 was implemented, which banned smoking in the workplace and bars, it became clear that the rates of heart attacks were decreasing.
A hike in tobacco taxes and smoking-cessation campaigns encouraged many Minnesotans to quit smoking during the study period (2002-2007).
“But those trends did not fully explain the drop in heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths they wrote: Removing the exacerbating effect of second-hand-smoke appears to have accelerated a trend already in the making.”
Those who are taking their smoking outside may be “reluctant public heroes,” but the accompanying editorial in the Annals of Internal medicine makes it clear that those who choose to continue smoking do not smoke more at home to compensate for not being able to smoke indoors. Instead, the trend has leaned toward implementing no smoking zones within homes as well. The affect seems to be a decrease in the amount of smoking.
While this is good news, second-hand smoke is not disappearing. Tobacco smoking is still allowed in multi-unit housing, where ventilation is shared and can travel between units. Smoking still continues in cars, casinos and outdoors.
UC San Francisco physicians Sara Kalkhoran and Pamela M. Lin have written, "We should prioritize the enforcement of smoke-free policies, eliminating loopholes in existing policies as well as encouraging the expansion of smoke-free policies" to include apartment buildings, cars, casinos and outdoor locations. They also state that these places may house and employ lower-income people, whose health should not continue to be compromised by loopholes in the laws.