Bans on smoking in public and in workplaces can sharply reduce the number of heart attacks among both smokers and nonsmokers, according to a report issued Thursday by the Institute of Medicine. . . . Nearly 440,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses — more than one-third from heart disease — according to the heart association. About 38,000 of those deaths are related to secondhand smoke, which has many characteristics of other types of air pollution linked to heart disease. . . . The panel examined 11 studies of heart attacks in areas where bans were implemented and found a decrease in heart attacks in every study, ranging from a low of 6 percent to a high of 47 percent, depending on how the study was conducted.
"Such consistent data confirms for the committee that smoking bans do, in fact, decrease the rate of heart attacks," they wrote. One study, for example, found that hospitalizations for heart attacks in Pueblo dropped 41 percent in the three years after the city banned smoking in the workplace. In most of the studies, it was difficult to isolate the benefits for nonsmokers from those for smokers, but two of the studies showed a very clear benefit for nonsmokers. The committee also surveyed the evidence from laboratory studies in animals and concluded that these results supported bans.
Even a couple thousand lives associated with a low end estimate of the benefits and applied to second hand smoke recipients only overwhelmingly justifies the smoking ban. The actual number of lives saved is probably in the tens of thousands of lives per year. This is a benefit comparable in scale to entirley ending homicide.