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Smoke-Free Policies May Significantly Improve Heart Health

Apr 25, 2014 03:43 PM EDT

Prohibiting tobacco smoking in public workplaces and other public spaces may substantially improve public health by reducing heart disease and death, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session.

Secondhand smoke exposure is associated with an estimated 50,000 deaths among US nonsmoking adults each year, the research authors note. Even small amounts of secondhand smoke can cause heart damage to healthy nonsmoking adults and may trigger heart attacks in those who are already at risk.

In fact, nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their heart disease risk by 25 to 30 percent, according to The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secondhand smoke also accounts for 10 percent of all lung cancer cases.

The study analyzed the effectiveness of Michigan's statewide smoking ban by reviewing the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for hospitalizations from heart attack, congestive heart failure and stroke one year before and after the ban was enacted.

"There is no nationwide federal policy banning indoor smoking, even though such a policy might improve public health and potentially reduce health care costs," lead investigator Dr. Sourabh Aggarwal, of the Department of Internal Medicine at Western Michigan University School of Medicine, said in a press release. "Health care can't just take place at the individual level. It must be multipronged, and that includes public health policies being implemented at the highest levels."

Findings showed a statistically significant reduction in cardiovascular disease and death with related hospitalizations decreasing by 2.03 percent from 65,329 to 64,002.

Multiple past studies have indicated that smoke-free laws have consistently shown a major decrease in hospital admissions for heart attacks once they've gone into effect.

Many states have passed smoke-free air laws that prohibit smoking in all public indoor places, protecting nonsmokers from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.

In 2010, Michigan became the 38th state to implement a smoke-free indoor air law, which bans smoking in all worksites, including bars and restaurants.

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