Since Ireland banned smoking in public places back in 2004, many other countries have done the same. But has it made a difference? Clearly, our clothes and hair smell a lot better after a night out, but have we collectively seen the benefits of the reduction in passive smoking? A new report investigates.
The report, a meta-study from the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, combines data from 77 individual studies to update the group's original report on the subject, including date from 65 new studies. This new review takes in data from 21 countries.
The overall conclusion of the authors is that, yes, smoking bans have improved health. In terms of heart attacks, lung function, asthma, strokes and other smoking-related diseases, we’re better off. "There is evidence that countries and their populations benefit from improved health after introducing smoking bans, importantly to do with the heart and blood vessels," say the authors. "We found evidence of reduced deaths."
Because the referenced studies used data from hospitals, that data doesn’t benefit from randomized trials, or from any kind of control group. But even so, the data shows that heart disease has indeed improved. When it comes to the impact on other kinds of health, though, the results are less clear.
"The impact of bans on respiratory health, on the health of newborn children, and on reducing the number of smokers and their cigarette use is not as clear, with some studies not detecting any reduction," says the report.
However, there is other evidence to suggest that bans do affect the number of smokers. According to one CDC study, workplace bans made employees twice as likely to stop smoking. And, anecdotally, most of us have seen the decline in smoking amongst our friends and co-workers. At the very least, a ban that forces people outside every time they want a cigarette means they can’t chain-smoke inside a bar all night long.