Rosemary Ellis from the NYT, talks about the town of Helena, Montana, where dramatic effects were seen on health when smoking was banned in public places and then reintroduced.
First a note on Rudolphs recent visit to Ireland – who are about to ban smoking in all public places, and also have the highest incidence of heart disease in Europe.
Six months into New York Citys smoke-free ordinance, there has been a spate of criticism about the wisdom of sticking by such a ban. The most notable came in a roundabout swipe from none other than former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who declared during a trip to Ireland last month that Irish citizens should have the choice to smoke in public places. (Giuliani later tried to distance himself from his comments.)
Then this staggering figure:
The study showed two trends. First, there was no change in heart attack rates for patients who lived outside city limits. But for city residents, the rates plummeted by 58 percent in only six months.
We know from longer-term studies that the effects of secondhand smoke occur within minutes, and that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with a 30 percent increased risk in heart-attack rates, says Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine who conducted the studys statistical analysis. But it was quite stunning to document this large an effect so quickly.
And like Ireland, pressure was put on by the Vintners:
It was also stunning to witness what happened next. The Montana state legislature, under pressure from the Montana Tavern Association and tobacco lobbyists, rescinded the ban in December. As a result, heart-attack rates bounced back up almost as quickly as they dropped.
And I work in bars too, by the way…
The bottom line of Helenas plummeting then soaring heart attack rate is painfully obvious: Secondhand smoke kills. Only 30 minutes of exposure to it causes platelets in the bloodstream to become stickier. When that happens, blood clots form more easily, which can block arteries and cause heart attacks.
Dr. Richard Sargent, one of the study’s authors, points out that eight hours of working in a smoky bar is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. In such an environment, other studies have shown, workers more than double their chances of developing cancer and asthma, and pregnant workers put themselves at risk for miscarriage and premature delivery.
All of which make Giuliani’s comments particularly ill informed. And although the tobacco lobby continues to finance a campaign claiming that New Yorkers are unhappy with the ban, a poll released this month by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, reported that 59 percent of voters in the state favor prohibiting smoking in public places. Another survey, commissioned in August by anti-smoking groups, found that 70 percent of New York City voters support it.Smoking in public places also sets off an enormous domino effect in public-health spending by creating or worsening illnesses whose treatment costs are eventually shouldered by taxpayers.
For all of these reasons, New Yorkers can’t afford to be as easily defeated as the citizens of Helena – nor as easily manipulated by the tobacco lobby and the politicians who are in its pocket.
Ban smoking in public places, everywhere.