The smoking ban has led to a sharp fall in heart attacks
Major research suggests that the introduction of a smoking ban has resulted in a 40 per cent fall in the number of people suffering from heart attacks as the result of passive smoking.
A review of 77 studies found that reduced exposure to passive smoking has caused a “significant reduction” in heart problems across the population.
Several of the studies found that non smokers and ex-smokers gained most the benefits.
The Cochrane study examined a range of health outcomes in 21 countries, including the UK, which have introduced bans in recent years.
Researchers concluded that there was strong evidence that reduced exposure to passive smoking reduced the number of people suffering from cardiac problems.
The studies examined included a Liverpool study of 57,000 hospital patients. This found admissions for heart attacks fell by 42 per cent among men and 43 per cent among women in the five years since the ban was introduced in 2007.
And US research reviewed found a 14 per cent reduction in strokes in counties which introduced a ban, compared with those which did not.
Some 33 out of the 44 studies reviewed on heart disease found a “significant reduction” following the introduction of smoking bans.
Researchers said the studies took account of other trends over the period – such as a large increase in rates of statin prescribing, to protect against heart disease.
Review author, Professor Cecily Kelleher, from University College, Dublin, said: “The current evidence provides more robust support for the previous conclusions that the introduction of national legislative smoking bans does lead to improved health outcomes through a reduction in second hand smoke exposure for countries and their populations.”
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This review strengthens previous evidence that banning smoking in public places leads to fewer deaths from heart disease and that this effect is greatest in the non-smoking population.
He said the studies were observational and all had their limitations, but it would be difficult to study the effects of passive smoking in a more robust scientific way.
Researchers said the evidence was less clear about whether the introduction of bans had actually helped people to give up smoking.
Nonetheless, smokers seemed to benefit from some reduction in exposure to passive smoke.
One Scottish study, which found no fall in smoking rates after a ban was introduced in 2006, found a 14 per cent reduction in hospital admissions for heart problems among smokers, and a 21 per cent reduction in admissions among non-smokers.
The research found the impact of the ban on respiratory health, and conditions such as asthma, was less clear cut, though seven of 12 studies on asthma found reduced hospitalisations since the ban.