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Smoke-Free Policies May Protect the Heart

THURSDAY, March 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that hospitalizations for heart disease and stroke dipped slightly in Michigan after the state cracked down on smoking in bars and restaurants.

But researchers can't say whether the smoking ban was directly responsible for the drop in hospitalizations because other factors could have caused the dip.

While it's hard to know for certain whether smoking bans actually affect hospitalization rates, other studies have suggested that they can have an impact, the researchers noted.

In 2010, Michigan banned smoking in workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Researchers checked a sample of statistics from hospitalizations from the year before and the year after the ban. They found that the number of hospitalizations fell by 2 percent, from 65,329 to 64,002, while deaths in hospitals also decreased slightly.

The study authors weren't able to take into account any other factors that could have contributed to lower levels of hospitalizations and deaths.

Still, researchers believe an association may exist.

"There is no nationwide federal policy banning indoor smoking, even though such a policy might improve public health and potentially reduce health care costs," lead investigator Dr. Sourabh Aggarwal, a resident physician in the department of internal medicine at Western Michigan University School of Medicine, said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.

"Health care can't just take place at the individual level," Aggarwal added. "It must be multipronged, and that includes public health policies being implemented at the highest levels."

The findings are to be presented Sunday at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more about how smoking affects the heart, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, March 27, 2014

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