Smoking ban slashes heart attacks by up to a third across world

SMOKING bans have dramatically reduced the number of heart attacks in Europe and North America, cutting rates by between a quarter and more than a third, two major studies have shown.

The evidence suggests anti-smoking laws have had a bigger impact on heart health than first thought.

Heart attacks strike an estimated 275,000 people in the UK each year and kill 146,000.

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Earlier this month, a Department of Health study claimed heart attack rates fell by about 10 per cent in England in the year after the ban on smoking in public places was introduced, while separate research put the figure for Scotland at 14 per cent.

The early results from a study commissioned by the Department of Health were said to have shown a sharper drop than researchers had expected. Separate research showed a 14 per cent fall in heart attack numbers in Scotland which imposed a similar ban a year earlier.

But new research from two teams looking at large samples from both Europe and North America suggests even these figures may underestimate the significance of smoking bans.

One US study indicated that the ban had reduced rates by 26 per cent while a second, reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, showed heart attacks plummeted by between 17 per cent after one year and 36 per cent after three years.

Professor David Meyers, from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in the US, who led the first study, said: "Even breathing in low doses of cigarette smoke can increase one's risk of heart attack.

"Public smoking bans seem to be tremendously effective in reducing heart attack and, theoretically, might also help to prevent lung cancer and emphysema."