Smoke-Free Workplaces Reduce Heart Attacks, Study Says

Research suggests that the incidence of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths was cut in half among Olmsted County, Minn., residents after a smoke-free ordinance took effect.

Mayo Clinic researchers have amassed additional evidence that secondhand smoke kills and smoke-free workplace laws save lives.

Their research suggests that the incidence of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths was cut in half among Olmsted County, Minn., residents after a smoke-free ordinance took effect. Adult smoking dropped 23 percent during the same time frame, as the rates of other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity remained stable or increased.

"This study adds to the observation that smoke-free workplace laws help reduce the chances of having a heart attack, but for the first time we report these laws also reduce the chances of sudden cardiac death," said Richard Hurt, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center. "The study shows that everyone, especially people with known coronary artery disease, should avoid contact with secondhand smoke. They should have no—literally no—exposure to secondhand smoke because it is too dangerous to their health."

Hurt said evidence from this new study will strengthen efforts by the Global Smoke-Free Worksite Challenge, a recently formed tobacco control advocacy collaboration that debuted at a Clinton Global Initiative event. The Challenge will encourage other countries and employers to expand the number of employees able to work in smoke-free environments.

"We are going to use this information to help us convince corporations—convince countries—that this is the right thing to do to protect the health of their workers and their citizens," Hurt said.

The population-based study showed that during the 18 months before Olmsted County's first smoke-free law for restaurants was passed in 2002, the regional incidence of heart attack was 212.3 cases per 100,000 residents. In the 18 months following a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in 2007, in which restaurants and workplaces became smoke-free, that rate dropped to 102.9 per 100,000 residents—a decrease of about 45 percent. Additionally, during these two time periods, the incidence of sudden cardiac death fell from 152.5 to 76.6 per 100,000 residents—a 50 percent reduction.

"Our findings provide support to the life-saving effect that smoke-free legislation can have among community members affected by these laws," said co-author Jon Ebbert, M.D., associate director of Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center.

The study was supported by a grant from ClearWay Minnesota, a nonprofit organization. The study drew data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, a long-term, collaborative medical records project among health care providers in Olmsted County.

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