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Smoking ban sees drop in heart attacks

No smoking Savings to NHS around £8m in first year

The smoking ban in England has resulted in 1200 fewer people being admitted to hospital with heart attacks after a year of it being introduced, new research has found.

The research shows the introduction of a law banning smoking in public places in England led to a 2.4% reduction in heart attack admissions the following year. Although a modest reduction, the figure equates to 1200 fewer heart attacks and an £8m saving to the NHS.

Each year in the UK, over 140,000 people have heart attacks, and around a third die before reaching the hospital.

The smoking ban in England came into effect on July 1 2007, following earlier bans in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The researchers from the University of Bath, led by Dr Anna Gilmore, collected information on emergency hospital admissions for patients aged 18 and over from July 2002 to September 2008.

They then compared the records for the five years before the introduction of the smoking ban to the period after it came into force.

The findings are published online in today's British Medical Journal.

Similar studies which have looked at the effects of smoking bans have had varying results. The largest reductions in heart attack admissions have reported in smaller US studies. Scotland saw a 17 per cent drop in heart attack admissions in the year following its ban.

However, the researchers suggest the smaller reduction in heart admissions seen in their study could be because smoke-free legislation in England was introduced at a time when many public places and workplaces were already smoke-free.

Dr Gilmore concluded that smoke-free public places may result in reductions in hospital admissions for heart attacks, even in countries with pre-existing smoking restrictions.

And added that given the high rate of heart attacks, “even the relatively small reduction seen in England has important public health benefits.”

Betty McBride, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Banning smoking in public places was a bold step and now we have evidence showing that was absolutely right.

“It’s brilliant news that an average three fewer people a day are admitted to hospital suffering a heart attack. What’s more, we’ll see more benefits in future because heart attacks aren’t the only way that tobacco smoke harms the heart.

“Government should see this as a green light for further life-saving measures – going beyond the forthcoming ban on vending machines – to crack down on illegal tobacco smuggling and introducing plain packaging on cigarette boxes. These will also help stop people dying prematurely because of smoking-related illnesses.”

This article was published on Wed 9 June 2010

Image © Alex White - Fotolia.com

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