IU Study: Smoking ban led to 25 percent drop in heart attacks in Indy
By Shari Rudavsky
Indianapolis saw a 25 percent decrease in the monthly number of hospital admissions for acute heart attacks in the years after the city passed a smoke-free ordinance, according to an Indiana University study released Thursday.
The study examined data from five major hospitals in the Indianapolis area from 2007 to 2014.
While current and former smokers experienced a decline in heart attacks — a 26 percent and 28 percent reduction, respectively — nonsmokers also benefited, the study by a professor at IU’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health reported. Among people who never smoked, there was a 21 percent decrease in heart attacks.
Other studies in other cities have seen similar reductions in the face of smoke-free ordinances, but this is the first to look at the issue in Indianapolis.
Anti-smoking advocates say that the study confirms that smoke-free laws do result in a healthier population.
“How do we know people weren’t just leading healthier lives?” said Dr. Julie Clary, of the Indiana University School of Medicine and a cardiologist with the Krannert Institute of Cardiology. “This phenomenon is repeated again and again when these laws are passed.”
Indianapolis first passed a smoking ban in 2005, but that ban allowed an exemption for bars and taverns with liquor licenses. In 2012, the City-County Council imposed the ban on bars and taverns as well.
Originally, many in the city opposed the idea of restricting tobacco use in bars. Tracy Robertson, owner of the Mass Ave Pub, said that she feared the change could result in a hit to her business.
Still, she had never liked the cigar and cigarette smoke that filled her bar. She hated emptying ashtrays at the end of the night and even had to repaint more often because the smoke would stain the walls.
“Five years ago, it all definitely changed for the better,” she said. “Our work environment is cleaner and healthier.”
Voters often approached Indianapolis City-County Council member Jeff Miller to ask him how he could support the measure as a Republican.
He had an easy answer. When people go out to eat, they expect the food they eat to be safe, as well as the water they drink.
“Why is the air any different?” asked Miller, who was a co-sponsor of the original ordinance.
Now, he said, many people want to know why the city didn’t do this sooner.
Almost every key demographic group in the city except for black females saw a decline in monthly admissions after the ban, the study reported.
Those who had no other pre-existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes or hypertension, saw a decline of 25 percent to 26 percent in heart attacks after the ban.
While the study could not prove definitively that the smoking ban was responsible for the whole decline, it does suggest that the smoke-free law played a major role, said study author Yi Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at IU’s Fairbanks School.
“Just given the magnitude of the decrease, smoking definitely contributed the most significant reduction,” he said.
The timing of the report was not an accident.
Five years ago on June 1, all bars in Indianapolis went smoke-free.
Earnest Davis, chairperson of Smoke Free Indy, said that his group wanted to highlight the effect such laws can have.
“This is something that shouldn’t be forgotten,” he said.