Friday, November 18, 2005
Colorado health care experts this week announced study findings showing significantly fewer heart attacks in Pueblo after the city's enactment of a smoke-free ordinance.
The number of patients admitted to Pueblo's two major hospitals for heart attacks decreased 27 percent in the 18 months after the city passed a law banning indoor smoking in public places, according to the Pueblo Heart Study.
Researchers are submitting the study for publication.
"This study is an opportunity to highlight a good reason to have a ban," said Dr. Brian Harrington at Steamboat Springs Family Medicine.
Steamboat enacted a smoke-free air ordinance in July and is among 16 Colorado communities with smoking bans.
The Pueblo study, the second of its kind, compared heart attack hospitalizations among people living within city limits for 18 months before the ban, enacted July 1, 2003, to hospitalizations afterward.
Researchers also tracked heart attack hospitalizations in nearby Colorado Springs, which does not have a smoke-free air ordinance, during the same time period.
Heart attack rates there changed little and were consistent with national averages, said contributing researcher Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods of the Pueblo City-County Health Department.
She noted that researchers accounted for variables, including nationwide decreases in heart attack rates because of better preventative care.
The study "is not a stretch to cardiologists and scientists that have worked in areas of second-hand smoke," Nevin-Woods said.
The problem is, many people don't understand how second-hand smoke affects the body, she said.
The aorta, for example, stiffens when exposed to second-hand smoke, making it harder to pump blood. That and other blood-related changes can spur acute heart attacks in susceptible individuals, Nevin-Woods said.
Experts say the Pueblo study bolsters similar findings in a Helena, Mont., study published in the British Medical Journal in 2004.
That study tracked the number of heart attacks before, during and after a six-month smoking ban, which was halted by a court injunction.
Researchers found an average of 40 heart attack hospitalizations in the six months before and after the ban, compared with 24 admissions during the ban.
"People now can't say that the Helena study was just one study -- a fluke," Harrington said.
Steve Ivancie, who was among Steamboat Springs City Council members who voted for the smoke-free ordinance, said he was not surprised by the Pueblo study's findings.
"I've always thought smoke-free Steamboat was a health issue," he said.