Smoking Laws Cut Deaths, Hospitalizations Shows Analysis

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A new analysis conducted at the University of California San Francisco has shown that laws preventing smoking at work and other public places, such as restaurants and bars, result in fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks, strokes, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. The researchers found that the laws also reduce health care costs and raise quality of life.

"The public, health professionals, and policy makers need to understand that including exemptions and loopholes in legislation - such as exempting casinos - condemns more people to end up in emergency rooms," said Stanton Glantz, co-author of the analysis and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UCSF. "These unnecessary hospitalizations are the real cost of failing to enact comprehensive smoke-free legislation."

The research was a meta-analysis of 45 different studies published before November 30, 2011 covering 33 different smoke-free laws in the U.S., New Zealand, and Germany. Researchers looked at the relationship between smoking bans and hospital admissions or death from cardiac, cerebrovascular, and respiratory diseases. They found a 15% drop in heart attack hospitalizations, a 16% drop in stroke hospitalizations, and a 24% drop in respiratory hospitalizations, including hospitalizations for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The study authors also noted that more comprehensive anti-smoking laws were accompanied by larger drops in risk. Along with the drop in hospitalizations came a drop in related health care costs. Researchers stated that one German province saw $6.9 million in savings after its first year of smoke-free laws.

"Smoke-free legislation…reduces exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke and creates an environment that helps smokers cut down or quit smoking," said the study's authors. "The passage of these laws reflects changes in social norms that also affect smoking behavior; the laws both formalize and accelerate this social change and the associated health benefits."

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