In 2009, two large studies stated that cities enacting smoking bans saw a drop in heart attack rates -- and fast. CNN reported at the time that the studies found American, Canadian, and European cities saw average of 17 percent fewer heart attacks in the first year after the smoking ban.
Reason blogger Jacob Sullum has followed two more recent studies and other data that debunk this theory completely in some states. A few weeks ago, he reported a study of 74 U.S. cities as finding that smoking bans did not lead to dramatic reductions in heart attack rates.
Now, he continues with data from seven other states don't support a connection between the bans and lowering heart attacks. One study, in the Journal of Community Health, found that California, Utah, South Dakota, Florida and New York did not fit the bill of previous studies. These states either were significantly different from the expected decline or the rate actually increased. The study reported:
Smoke-free ordinances provide a healthy indoor environment, but their implementation in six states had little or no immediate measurable effect on [acute myocardial infarction] AMI mortality.
Additionally, Sullum points out that tobacco policy blogger Michael Siegel found similarly contradicting data in Ohio, which has had a ban since 2007. Siegel wrote:
. . .the rate of decline in heart attack discharges in Ohio was greater prior to the smoking ban than it was in the first three years after the smoking ban.
Sullum included this Ohio data from Seigel:
- 2006-2007 (baseline): -4.7%
- 2006-2007 (first year of implementation): -2.7%
- 2007-2008 (second year of implementation): -2.2%
- 2008-2009 (third year of implementation): -6.3%
- Average annual decline post-implementation: -3.6%
The Ohio Department of Health nevertheless concludes (PDF) that there was "a sharp decline in heart attack rates immediately following implementation of the law." In fact, it says, there was "a significant change in age‐adjusted rates of AMI discharges within one month [!] after the enactment of the Smoke‐Free Workplace Act." Siegel (who supports smoking bans but opposes unscientific arguments in favor of them) analyzes the statistical trickery behind those conclusions here and here. [...]
Ban boosters focus on the few places that fit the story they want to tell, ignoring the broader picture. This blatant cherry picking has been blessed by the National Academy of Sciences, whose Institute of Medicine issued a 2009 report endorsing the biologically implausible notion that smoking bans have a noticeable impact on heart attack rates within a year or two.
Back in 2009, CNN reported, the studies widely claiming the connection between smoking bans and lowering heart attack rates were printed in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association and Journal of the American College of Cardiology:
The new research suggests that a nationwide ban on smoking in public and workplaces could prevent 100,000 to 225,000 heart attacks each year in the U.S., says one study author, Dr. David Meyers,of the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
According to the National Institute of Health, smoking can increase a person's risk for coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks.