TYLER, TX (KLTV) - They brought heated arguments, a unanimous city council vote, and two new studies say smoking bans bring quite a few health benefits. The studies by two research teams broke down number of heart attack in towns enacting bans. Teams found at least a 15 percent decline in hospitalizations in the first year of smoke free communities and a 36 percent drop after three years.
"I think there really is validity," said Dr. Fagg Sanford, who leads the cardiology department at Trinity Mother Frances. "The studies that were published are really just reviewing stuff we've known for the last decade now."
Tyler's smoking ban is going on 16 months, Longview's six years, and Kilgore's went into effect this past July. It's enough time for comparative results, which just aren't there.
"I don't think we've really seen, as yet, a significant drop in incidents of heart attacks," said Sanford.
It's a surprising statistic, Sanford credits to location.
"We get admissions of heart attacks from all over the East Texas area - many communities that do not have smoking bans," said Sanford.
And, in large part, to the makeup of the city. Fewer bars mean fewer non-smokers inhaling second hand smoke, causing health problems just as severe as chronic smokers.
"Just because we haven't yet seen that impact here doesn't mean that the study is any less valid," said Sanford.
Researchers agree. In 2005 the number of heart attacks in the U.S. was 1.26 million. Of those, nearly half a million died. Study results show the number could be cut in half if bans went nationwide. The bottom line Sanford says is time.
"Our smoking bans in East Texas have not been around very long yet and it takes time for these kind of changes to show up," said Sanford.
Health care experts say a single heart attack can cost between $15,000 and $20,000 in unnecessary hospital bills, adding up to three billion dollars on the national level. The U.S. has not attempted to enact a nationwide smoking ban. As of July 2009, 24 states have enacted smoking bans at workplaces and public places, including bars and restaurants.