National smoking bans do help reduce health risks of passive smoking

National smoking bans do help reduce health risks of passive smoking

Research published this week provides strong evidence to suggest that a national smoking ban does reduce the dangers of passive smoking, in particular heart disease.

Published in the Cochrane Library, the new Cochrane review contains updated research that shows that the populations of countries who have imposed a smoking ban do benefit from reduced exposure to secondhand smoke.

The first national ban on smoking in all public places was introduced by Ireland in 2004, with many countries, states, and regions following with their similar smoke-free legislations.

In this new and updated review a team of Irish researchers looked at 77 studies from 21 different countries around the world including the US, UK, Canada and Spain.

The previous review had looked at how levels of smoking had been reduced in public places, but this new research, funded by the Health Research Board, Ireland, included studies which looked more at the health risks associated with passive smoking, in particular heart disease.

The researchers found that from 44 studies that looked specifically at heart disease, 33 showed that after the smoking bans were introduced there was a significant decrease in the levels of heart disease among the country's population, with the greatest reduction in the levels of heart disease seen among non-smokers, who could be at risk due to passive smoking.

Commenting on the findings, review author Professor Cecily Kelleher, from University College, Dublin, said: "The current evidence provides more robust support for the previous conclusions that the introduction of national legislative smoking bans does lead to improved health outcomes through a reduction in second hand smoke exposure for countries and their populations. We now need research on the continued longer-term impact of smoking bans on the health outcomes of specific sub-groups of the population, such as young children, disadvantaged and minority groups."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills up to half of all users, around 6 million people each year, with more than 600 000 of those deaths due to non-smokers having been exposed to passive smoke. The WHO believes that everyone should be able to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air, and doing so would help to protect the health of non-smokers, as well as encourage smokers to quit. Over 1.3 billion people, 18% of the world's population, are currently protected by national smoking bans.