Secondhand smoke law cuts heart attacks

New info on the impact of tobacco laws on public health:

A study released Thursday credits New York’s 2003 Clean Indoor Air Act with an 8 percent drop in heart attacks statewide because of reduced exposure to secondhand smoke.

Previous studies reported more dramatic results, including a 2003 study in Helena, Mont., that found heart attacks fell by about 40 percent after voters passed an indoor smoking ban. The rates returned to normal then the ban was lifted.

Another study found heart attack rates in Pueblo, Colo., dropped by 27 percent in the 18 months after a smoking ban was imposed in bars, restaurants and other public places.

Michael Seigel, a professor at Boston University’s Social And Behavioral Sciences Department who reviews tobacco policies for the school, including smoking bans, questioned the conclusions of the New York study based on its limited scope.

“You can’t conclude that that decline was due to the smoking ban,” said Siegel, who has testified in New York City, Connecticut and Massachusetts about the value of indoor smoking bans. “Because it’s possible that decline was happening everywhere, and without assessing data from every state, there’s no way to know.”

The New York study examined information from a 10-year span starting before the statewide smoking ban took effect. Researchers found that regulations by local governments that preceded the statewide ban also contributed to a downward trend for heart attacks.