According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking kills about 4 million people every year. About a quarter of such death that was related to heart disease, are due to cigarettes. However, when smokers are told that ‘smoking may increase the risk of getting heart disease,’ how many of them will be convinced and stop smoking voluntarily. Perhaps, the new findings may change their perspective.
A group of researchers from the Rome Health Authority reported their findings on February11, 2008 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation that the smoking ban by Italy in 2005 has led to a sharp fall in heart attacks.
The researchers compared the rate of heart attacks from the years of 2000 to 2004 to those occurring in the year after the ban (2005) was enforced. It was found that the number of heart attacks in men and women aged 35 to 64 fell 11 percent. This group of people is most likely to be exposed to smoke in cafes, bars and restaurants. It is believed that most of this change is due to the decreased impact of passive smoke.
The team analyzed records from hospital and adjusted for heat waves, flu epidemics, air pollution and other factors that could have contributed to heart attacks. The researchers also measured daily the air quality in 40 public places.
In Italy, about 30 percent of men and 20 percent of women smoke. The Italian authority prohibits smoking cigarettes in all indoor public places such as offices, retail shops, restaurants, pubs and discos.
It seems that the smoking ban in Italy is working and having a real protective effect on population health. In fact, cigarette sales also fell 5.5 percent after the ban. Nevertheless, the researchers attributed the health benefits seen in the study to reduced exposure to passive smoke. Young men and women living in poorer areas appeared to have the greatest health benefit resulting from the ban. Clearly, such laws do improve public health.
It shows that the impact of a health intervention can also be achieved in other countries. Italy, Britain, Ireland and a number of other European countries have already banned smoking in public places. Based on the new findings, researchers strongly urge all other possible countries to ban smoking. In particular, smoking bans in workplace should strongly be enforced.