A new study performed at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Sciences suggests that the implementation of smoke-free laws in public places has reduced the number of heart attacks in the region.
According to the study, which was done by the school's Department of Family and Community Medicine, the incidence of heart attacks in the city of Grand Forks dropped by 24.1 percent within four months of the city's smoke-free law, which took effect in August 2010.
The study was conducted during an eight-month window, beginning in April 2010 and ending in December 2010 four months before the law took effect, and four months after.
"This study demonstrates the immediate health benefits of eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke," said Dr. Eric Johnson, an associate professor with the department and a co-author of the study. "It's interesting that we saw this large of a drop when Grand Forks already had a partial smoke-free law in place before the implementation of the full smoke-free workplace law."
The UND study is among a few that demonstrated that implementing comprehensive smoke-free laws cut down the number of heart attacks and cardiac-related maladies. In November 2011, the Mayo Clinic release a study conducted in Olmsted County, Minn., that showed the incidence of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths were cut in half after a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance went into effect.
"The UND study proves that comprehensive smoke-free laws save lives," said Jeanne Prom, executive director of the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy. "It demonstrates why we need to continue funding tobacco prevention programs."
Prom noted that tobacco use is a major cause of the top chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, chronic obstructive lung disease, and respiratory disease. Tobacco use is also the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths in North Dakota, she said, adding that today, 37 percent of North Dakotans are protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws.
"Although this marks great progress for North Dakota, the work has just begun," Prom said. "More smoke-free ordinances must be put into place so everyone is protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke."
In addition to Grand Forks, the cities of Fargo, West Fargo, Napoleon, Bismarck and Devils Lake have comprehensive smoke-free laws.