Hattiesburg, MS - smoking ban results in 13.4% decrease in heart attacks and a savings of $2.3 million..

November 3, 2010 - A report released today by Mississippi State University shows a more than 13 percent decrease in heart attacks in Hattiesburg since the city passed a comprehensive smoking policy in public businesses, also resulting in an estimated savings of millions of dollars. In addition to identifying fewer Hattiesburg residents admitted to area hospitals for heart attacks, MSU researchers also quantified the saved costs related to individuals treated for the heart attacks at more than $2.3 million.

Robert McMillen (robert.mcmillen@ssrc.msstate.edu), a researcher at the university's Social Science Research Center and assistant psychology professor; Anna Hill, a former SSRC research associate; Nell Valentine, SSRC special projects coordinator; and Dr. Robert Collins, director of MSU's health services, found results consistent with a similar study earlier this year in Starkville and in other communities throughout the U.S.

"These reductions were greater than those observed in the control populations that did not live in a community with a smoke-free ordinance," the researchers conclude in the report.

The study, which examined the number of heart attack admissions from April 21, 2005 to June 30, 2009. The study analyzed people admitted to the hospitals who lived inside the city limits compared to those from the area, but not in the city limits.

Hattiesburg's smoking policy began Jan. 1, 2007, while Starkville's policy began May 20, 2006. (On March 21, 2006, Starkville became the first city in Mississippi to adopt a smoking ban for indoor public places, including restaurants and bars.) Smoking bans have become a trend across the state as scientific publications such as "The Journal of the American Heart Association" have published research offering consistent evidence that comprehensive smoking policies provide health benefits in communities.

Hattiesburg residents experienced a 13.4 percent decrease in heart attack admissions compared to a 3.8 percent increase in admissions among those not living in the city. The study's design intended to control for larger trends that may occur in Mississippi and that could be responsible for any observed decrease in hospital admissions for heart attacks.

McMillen, other researchers, healthcare providers, elected officials, business owners, and people dramatically affected by exposure to second-hand smoke will discuss this study and other findings related to exposure to second-hand smoke today in Hattiesburg, part of the Smokefree Air Mississippi initiative sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Health. A similar program sponsored by MDH will take place in Starkville Nov. 4, along with a number of other programs promoting the healthy initiative throughout the state.

In addition to studying heart attack rates in Hattiesburg, the researchers conclude that Mississippi could experience a "substantial decrease in heart attacks, as well as substantial cost savings, if more communities and/or the state implemented smoke-free laws."

Reference: MSU research reveals Hub City smoking ban results, Universioty Realtions, Mississippi State University, 10/27/2010.