Heart attack rates fall after smoking bans enacted

Published: Nov. 9, 2011 at 4:22 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2011 at 4:17 PM EST
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STATEWIDE, NC (WECT) – Emergency room visits by North Carolina residents experiencing heart attacks have declined by 21 percent since the January 2010 start of the state's Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars law, according to the NC Division of Public Health.

The report cites studies from a number of communities, states and countries that show similar declines in heart attack rates after enacting tobacco-free policies.

"We pushed for passage of this law because we knew it would save lives," said Governor Bev Perdue, who signed the law into effect. "Our goal was to protect workers and patrons from breathing secondhand smoke and we are seeing positive results."

Heart attacks are more likely to happen in the hours after smoking because chemicals in tobacco smoke narrow the blood vessels, raise blood pressure and heart rate, according to the US Surgeon General's Reports from 2006 and 2010.

The Institute of Medicine has evaluated that smoke-free laws reduce heart attacks.  The Centers for Disease Control also acknowledges that secondhand smoke exposure can also cause heart attacks.

According to reports, the decline in heart attacks in North Carolina in 2010 represent an estimated $3.3 to $4.8 million in health care cost savings.

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