Smoking Bans Work, Report Says

There are about 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs every year in the United States linked to <"">tobacco use. Now, an emerging report is confirming what has been long known, that smoking bans are helping reduce some smoking-related health effects in the general public, says the Associated Press (AP). The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued the report.

The AP said that over 126 million nonsmokers in this country are exposed to tobacco smoke on an ongoing basis. The AP also noted that, in 2006, the surgeon general announced that “overwhelming scientific evidence” was associated with tens of thousands of fatalities from cardiac disease, lung cancer, and other deadly diseases due to this second- and third-hand smoke.

Smoking has been most commonly linked to lung cancer; however, heart disease is actually more closely linked to the habit, the AP pointed out, adding that nearly one-third of all U.S. heart attacks are connected to smoking.

Smoking bans have been met with controversy, noted the AP, because industry is concerned about ire from smokers who feel disenfranchised. Others disagree. “The evidence is clear,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), quoted the AP. “Smoke-free laws don’t hurt business … but they prevent heart attacks in nonsmokers,” Dr. Frieden added. The CDC requested the report.

We recently wrote that the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation published information stating that tobacco use kills about six million people annually, citing ScienceDaily. Of those, over one-third will die from cancer. Also, the study indicated that tobacco use costs the international economy $500 billion in U.S. dollars annually and is particularly damaging to middle- and low-income countries, said Science Daily, with losses seen, for example in “lost productivity, misused resources, missed opportunities for taxation, and premature death.”

The current IOM report also concluded that no level of secondhand smoke is safe, although more intense exposure is worse. The report also cited “compelling” evidence, said the AP, which found exposure to smoking for a short period of time—less than one hour—could “push someone already at risk of a heart attack over the edge.” Although the reasons could be considered “circumstantial,” the small particles and other substances emitted from the smoke could have rapid negative effect on blood vessels, said the AP.

“There is no question that smoking bans have a positive health effect,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman, chair of the IOM committee and an environmental health specialist at Johns Hopkins University, quoted the AP.

Most recently we wrote that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban on cigarettes that contain fruit, candy, or clove flavoring. The ban, authorized by the new Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is part of a national effort by the FDA to reduce smoking in America. The FDA is also examining options for regulating both menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products other than cigarettes.

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