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Studies Find Importance of Extinguishing Secondhand Smoke

October 15, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - New studies out this fall are showing that heart attacks decline significantly after public smoking bans take effect. One year after passing smoking bans, communities in North America and Europe had 17 percent fewer heart attacks compared to communities without smoking restrictions, according to an analysis reported in the "Journal of the American Heart Association." After the initial 17 percent drop, the risk of heart attack declined even more in subsequent years.

Amy Barkley, regional director for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says this is good news for Kentucky cities and counties that have passed smoke-free laws.

"What this says is that secondhand smoke is not just an annoyance. It is a very serious health threat and that smoke-free laws save lives."

Dr. James Lightfoot of the University of California-San Francisco study said, "While we obviously won't bring heart attack rates down to zero, these findings give us evidence that in the short to mid-term, smoking bans will prevent a lot of heart attacks."

Barkley says this should send a powerful message to Kentuckians about passing additional smoking bans.

"What this says to elected officials in Kentucky cities, counties and local communities, is that there is a very solid base of science that says people should not be subjected to secondhand smoke in the workplace or when they're out in restaurants and bars."

Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work have a 25 percent higher risk of heart disease, and a 20 percent higher risk of lung cancer.

"Again, it is something we know is very dangerous. But it is very easily dealt with. You just prohibit smoking in the workplace, at all times and in all workplaces, and you're going to save lives by preventing these heart attacks - and, of course, preventing long-term, more gradual damage due to exposure to secondhand smoke as well."

Banning smoking in all public places in the United States would prevent over 156,000 heart attacks each year, according to the published studies.

Bill Goodman, Public News Service - KY