Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, said the study shows smoke-free laws have real-world benefits in terms of health and health costs.
"This meta-analysis extends previous ones with regard to cardiac admissions to hospitals," he noted. "What is new here is the evidence that the more comprehensive the legislation, the greater the beneficial health effect."
Also new is the evidence that protection extends to certain lung conditions, he said.
Danny McGoldrick, research director at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said "this study adds to the evidence, including a review by the Institute of Medicine, that smoke-free laws save lives by preventing heart attacks, strokes and other serious diseases."
The bottom line, McGoldrick said, is that smoking should be banned in all public areas without exception.
"No one should have to put themselves at risk of a heart attack, lung cancer or other diseases caused by secondhand smoke in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out," he said.
Another new study also confirms the value of smoke-free legislation.
In that report, published online Oct. 29 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found heart attacks dropped by 33 percent in one Minnesota county in an 18- month period after smoke-free legislation was enacted compared to the 18 months before its passage.
They also found a 17 percent reduction in sudden cardiac deaths compared to the earlier time period.
The laws in that county ban smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces.
Although the research found an association between smoke-free laws and decreases in hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke, it did not prove a cause-and-effect
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