Last February, France made big news by implementing a nation-wide smoking ban in public places, a move that prompted many to fear an “end to cafe society.” The ban includes cafes, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and hotels. A similar ban was also implemented in Italy in January 2005.
The first statistics are now in, and Frances National Sanitary Institute is reporting that there has been a 15% reduction in emergency room patients suffering myocardial infractions (heart attacks or strokes) since the ban took effect. Rome researchers are also claiming an 11.2% decrease in these coronary events for patients in Rome since the ban took place.
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has issued a report summarizing these statistics, and urging European countries to enforce comprehensive smoking bans across the continent. There is a wealth of research that has shown the connection between smoking and coronary disease and events, which gives the basis for the smoking ban and the decreased occurrence of these events in patients.
“Although further studies are needed all over France to confirm the strong decrease in smoking related deaths over time, these statistics show the same tendency professionals have already observed in Italy, Ireland and Scotland when these countries introduced their own bans on tobacco,” says Professor Daniel Thomas of the ESC.
The ESC report also states that in France, there has been a “reduction of pollution inside cafés and restaurants by over 75% between December 2007 and January 2008,” a tremendous number that suggests the reduction in second hand smoking (or “passive smoking” as the ESC terms it in their report) may be what is leading to the lower occurrence of coronary events.
Professor Thomas further stresses the need for these bans to become more universal: “Governments must learn from these findings and not give in to pressure from the tobacco lobby. In France people are actually still buying tobacco but just the fact that working and living environments are free from smoke pollution has made an enormous difference to public health, not only regarding cardiovascular disease, but also respiratory disease and other complaints such as headaches, as the INVS findings show. It is very important to stress the immediate results observed on cardiovascular disease when people live in smoke free environments.”
The views of Professor Thomas echo those of the ESC as a whole. “The European Society of Cardiology would like to encourage smoke cessation across the continent through smoking bans and taxes on cigarettes. There is a consensus on the benefits of smoking cessation which are usually almost immediate and contribute to diminish the burden of cardiovascular disease.” Hopefully the ESC’s opinions will be heard, not just by other European nations, but by other countries, and by individual States in the U.S., that have high levels of cigarette consumption. As the above statistics show, eliminating second hand smoke in public places can lead to better health for smokers and non-smokers alike.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Partarrieu, Jacqueline. European Society of Cardiology. “Heart attack rates fall following national smoking bans.” February 2008.