One scenario in particular appears to clinch the case, Meyers said. When officials in Butte, Mont., banned smoking in public places, the incidence of heart attacks decreased by 45 percent. A judge reversed the banning ordinance, and the incidence of heart attacks returned to the previous level, he said.
Smoking increases the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems in a number of ways -- by making artery-clogging blood clots more common, by reducing the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol and by raising the possibility of dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities. Smokers double their risk for heart attacks, and secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk by 30 percent, the researchers said.
Smoking bans almost certainly decrease the risks for cardiovascular problems such as stroke and lung disorders such as emphysema, as well as lung cancer, said Dr. Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, "but those decreases generally take a lot longer to take place." He wrote an editorial that accompanied the publication of Meyers's study.
Predictions that smoking bans will cause a disastrous drop in business for bars and restaurants generally don't come through, Schroeder said. "A lot of people don't like going into smoking restaurants and bars," he said. "The last haven of smoking is in gambling casinos."
And though many gamblers might not mind a smoky atmosphere, employees are inevitably exposed to the dangers of smoke, Schroeder said. A similar situation was faced by airline flight attendants in the 1970s and 1980s, he said. They eventually sued the airlines and won a settlement that has enabled them to establish a research institute on the dangers of smoking, Schroeder said.
New York City, which has had a smoking ban for several years, now propos
All rights reserved