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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Do secondhand smoke laws prevent heart attacks?




Heart attacks dropped by one-third in one county in Minnesota after two smoke-free workplace ordinances went into place, a new study shows.

The lead researcher on the work said that decline was likely due to less secondhand smoke exposure in restaurants and bars, as smoke can trigger heart problems due to its effects on arteries and blood clotting.

But another tobacco expert questioned whether the drop in heart attacks could be clearly attributed to the two ordinances, which banned smoking in restaurants starting in 2002 and then in all workplaces, including bars, in 2007.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that in the 18 months before the first ordinance was enacted, the rate of heart attacks in Olmsted County was 151 for every 100,000 people. By the 18 months following the second ordinance, that fell to 101 per 100,000 people.

Dr. Richard Hurt said a few other studies, including one from Montana, have also suggested smoke-free workplace laws could impact heart attack rates.

But, he told Reuters Health, "There have been lingering doubts among some people about whether or not this was a real finding. We think we have produced the most definitive results that anyone can produce related to smoke-free laws and heart attacks."

Hurt, who led the research, said other predictors of heart attacks - including cholesterol levels, blood pressure and diabetes and obesity rates - all held steady or increased in Olmsted County over the study period.

"The only thing that really changed here was the smoke-free workplace laws," he said.
About 3,600 municipalities have laws on the books that restrict where people may smoke, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, with more than 1,000 including a smoke-free provision of some kind.

30/10/2012  :  Genevra Pittman / Reuters.

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