Generally, in public health, a smoke-free world is an aspirational goal. Two pioneering nations, Bhutan and Singapore, have taken resolute steps towards achieving this vision through stringent anti-smoking legislation.
Bhutan, the first country to ban tobacco sales and smoking in public spaces in 2004, inspired a wave of similar action globally. A move heralded an era of transformation, eventually leading to the prohibition of cigarette sales in 2010. Bhutan set the stage for a worldwide movement towards strict anti-cigarette laws.
Singapore followed suit by adopting comprehensive anti-smoking laws from 2013 to 2017. To gauge the influence of these laws on heart attack rates, a team of researchers delved into data from the Singapore Myocardial Infarction Registry, spanning from January 2010 to December 2019.
The research painted a compelling picture of the impact of Singapore’s anti-smoking laws. After the 2013 expansion of no-smoking zones to more public spaces, the rate of heart attacks experienced a noticeable decline. Before the expansion, heart attacks surged at a rate of 0.9 per million people every month, but post-2013, this rate dwindled to 0.6 per million.
Estimations from the study are eye-opening. Had the legislation not been enacted, an additional 19,591 heart attacks might have occurred in those aged over 65, in stark contrast to the 1,325 cases among those under 65. Notably, older people and men reaped the greatest benefits from the wider application of smoke-free regulations.
The significance of these findings isn’t confined to national borders. A broader meta-analysis of 18 previous studies across Europe, North America, and New Zealand demonstrated a 13% reduction in heart attack risk following the introduction of smoke-free legislation.
While these findings are encouraging, the study also underscores the need for governments to periodically evaluate existing anti-smoking laws before considering further extensions. The scourge of tobacco use continues unabated, claiming over 8 million lives worldwide every year, with 1.3 million deaths attributed to non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Ischaemic heart disease, often presenting as acute myocardial infarction (AMI) or heart attacks, is a prominent cause of death in this category.
In response to these alarming statistics, the World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for the adoption and rigorous enforcement of measures that safeguard individuals from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, indoor public places, and other relevant settings.
As the world rallies against the tobacco-related health crisis, New Zealand recently enacted a robust law, banning smoking for those born after 2008, with the aim of reducing the country’s smoking rate to a mere 5% by 2025. These actions underscore a global commitment to the battle against tobacco and the prevention of heart attacks for active smokers and those vulnerable to the dangers of secondhand smoke.