Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Cheshvan 5764 - November 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Observations: Secondhand Smoking
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The citizens of Helena, Montana, a relatively small town of about 66,000 in the north of the United States, voted in June 2002 to ban smoking in all public buildings -- including restaurants, bars and casinos. Soon after, doctors at the local hospital noticed that heart-attack admissions were dropping.

In conjunction with the University of California, San Francisco, the local doctors did a study to measure the short- term effects of a smoking ban.

Helena is a perfect place for such a study: relatively isolated, there is only one cardiac-care hospital within a 60- mile radius. If you get a heart attack in Helena, there's only one place to go.

The study showed two important things. For one, there was no change in heart attack rates for patients who lived outside city limits where there was no change in smoking laws. For city residents, where there was the new law banning public smoking, the rates plummeted by 58 percent in only six months.

Other studies found that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with a 30 percent increased risk in heart attack rates. Researchers were surprised to find the effects appearing so soon.

It was interesting that the politics also gave them another twist. The Montana State Legislature overrode the city and rescinded the ban in December. Heart-attack rates went back up almost as quickly as they dropped.

The research shows clearly that secondhand smoke kills. Only 30 minutes of exposure to it causes platelets in the bloodstream to become stickier. When that happens, blood clots form more easily, which can block arteries and cause heart attacks.

Eight hours of working in a smoky place is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Workers in such places more than double their chances of developing cancer and asthma, and pregnant workers put themselves at risk for miscarriage and premature delivery.


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