THURSDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- If all states banned smoking in restaurants, offices and other public spaces nationwide, the number of Americans suffering from heart attacks would drop by more than 18,000 within the first year, researchers report.
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"Comprehensive smoking bans have been implemented in some states, but not in every state," noted lead researcher Dr. Mouaz Al-Mallah, co-director of Cardiac Imaging Research at Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit.
Currently, 39 states have some type of public smoking bans, with 26 banning smoking in any enclosed public space, while 11 states have no bans at all.
Based on the finding, Al-Mallah said that he would "encourage all states to institute a ban on smoking in public place to protect people from secondhand smoke. Authorities should do everything possible to prevent healthy individuals from being exposed to secondhand smoke, and one of the ways is by passing such laws. "
Al-Mallah was scheduled to present the findings Thursday at the American Heart Association's annual Quality of Care and Outcomes Research conference in Washington, D.C.
For the study, the researchers looked at data from 13 states that do not have laws banning smoking in public places. In states without smoking bans there were 169,043 hospitalizations for heart attack, the researchers found.
Based on their calculations of an 11% drop in heart attacks if bans were instituted nationwide, there would be 18,596 fewer hospitalizations for heart attack in the first year.
In addition, there would be a savings of $92 million in costs of caring for these patients, the researchers said.
In 2008, Al-Mallah found that a smoking ban in Michigan would result in a 12% drop in heart attacks in that state.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that, "smoking and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke are well established and modifiable risk factors for heart attack, stroke and premature cardiovascular death."
He said that a number of studies have demonstrated that when communities adopt comprehensive smoking bans, substantial reductions in heart attacks follow.
"Adopting a national comprehensive smoking ban would prevent cardiovascular events, reduce death and disability due to cardiovascular disease, and greatly improve the cardiovascular health of this nation," Fonarow said.
Another expert agreed, and said that bans' benefits extend to nonsmokers as well by reducing secondhand smoke.
"This is another important piece of evidence that smoke-free laws protect health," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said. "It shows why it is critical that every state pass a comprehensive smoke-free law that protects all workers and applies to all workplaces and public places."
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SOURCES: Mouaz Al-Mallah, M.D., co-director, Cardiac Imaging Research, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit; Gregg C. Fonarow, M.D., professor, medicine, and director, Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, University of California, Los Angeles; Matthew L. Myers, President , Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; May 20, 2010, presentation, American Heart Association's annual Quality of Care and Outcomes Research conference, Washington, D.C.