Massachusettes - Smoking ban drop in fatal heart attacks..

November 14, 2008 - The Massachusetts (MA) Department of Public Health (DPH) today released new data indicating a significant decrease in the number of heart attack deaths following the implementation of the statewide smoke-free workplace law in 2004. DPH partnered with the Harvard School of Public Health on the study in which heart attack death data from all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns was reviewed. It was found that an estimated average of 577 fewer fatal heart attacks annually than expected since the smoking ban took effect.

"People have assumed that the only benefit we will be able to measure of a smoking ban is long-term benefits," (such as diminished cancer rates) said John Auerbach, the state public health commissioner. "This study demonstrates a real connection between smoking bans and short-term improvement in health outcomes."

Exposure to secondhand smoke (passive smoking. side-stream smoke, involuntary) for 30 minutes in amounts that mimic what happens in a restaurants or bar can damage the lining of blood vessels.

Even Michael Siegel, MD, MPH a critic of the results of some antismoking studies believes this is the strongest study yet on the effect of smoking bans on heart attacks.

The study, to be presented today to the MA Public Health Council, appears destined to bolster the case of Boston health authorities who have already given preliminary approval to a sweeping strengthening of their tobacco control laws. Boston To Ban Drugstore Tobacco Sales..

Reference: Smoking ban tied to a gain in lives
Fatal heart attacks drop in Massachusetts
by Stephen Smith, Boston Globe, 11/12/2008.

Related: So-called first study to examine what happens to public health when people stop smoking — and breathing secondhand smoke — in public places.


  Michael J. McFadden

November 14, 2008 at 7:32 PM

Since the article doesn't provide any information on the reduced number of heart attacks due to statins (it simply says a 50% reduction), it's absolutely impossible to say what effect the smoking ban had. It's possible that statin use cut them by 200, or 400, or even the entire 600 and that the ban had absolutely no effect at all. Why would the authors omit such an important consideration? Could it be because they want to exaggerate the effects of the smoking ban in order to please the grant funders of their study?

An important second consideration also seems to be ignored. Even if a significant reduction in heart attacks occurred after correcting for statin use, there seems to be absolutely no indication of how much of this reduction occurred among smokers who quit smoking as opposed to nonsmokers "who were exposed to secondhand smoke." The antismoking movement bases its justification for government bans on the claim that nonsmokers are being harmed by smokers, so why would the authors deliberately avoid separateing the groups in order to strengthen their argument?

Could it be that the numbers wouldn't support the claims they try to make? It wouldn't be the first time. See the "Stiletto" at:

for a brief, admittedly one-sided, but honest, accurate, and easy-to-read short analysis of some of the popular studies used to advance these bans and then ask yourself whether this current study should be swallowed with a few grains of salt as well.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"