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Study: Smoke-free laws may cut heart attack hospitalizations

  • Story Highlights
  • Researchers studied effects of anti-smoking ordinances in Colorado
  • Hospitalizations for heart attacks went down 41 percent, study found
  • Editorial suggests several reasons for possible correlation
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By Miriam Falco
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Implementing smoke-free policies can lead to fewer hospitalizations resulting from heart attacks, according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new study says smoking ordinances can lead to fewer hospitalizations from heart attacks.

A new study says smoking ordinances can lead to fewer hospitalizations from heart attacks.

Researchers studied the impact of smoke-free ordinances implemented in Pueblo, Colorado, in July 2003. They compared the number of hospitalizations for heart attacks 18 months before the policy went into effect and three years after implementation.

The Pueblo Heart Study found that although 399 people were hospitalized for heart attacks before any smoke-free laws went into effect, that number dropped to 237 three years after the law's introduction, a 41 percent decline.

The study was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Wednesday. The accompanying editorial suggests that there may be several reasons the ordinance may have led to a reduction in the number of heart attack-related hospitalizations:

• The ordinance led to an immediate decrease in secondhand smoke exposure.

• People who were forced to comply with smoke-free rules in public may have adopted a smoke-free environment at home and thus reduced the exposure to secondhand smoke even more.

• Restrictions to where you can smoke may have led more people to quit smoking altogether.

While the Colorado researcher didn't know if the study participants were smokers or non-smokers, the CDC's editorial points out that the new study adds to research from eight other studies, which also saw a drop in heart attack related hospitalizations after smoke-free laws are enforced.

A 2006 Surgeon General report concluded that "exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer."

According to the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is the combination of two types of smoke that is produced when burning tobacco: the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe and the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker.

The Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a known human cancer-causing agent.

According to the cancer institute, there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, and it can have an immediate effect "on a person's heart and blood vessels." It may raise the risk of heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and cause about 46,000 heart disease deaths annually, according to the NCI Web site.

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