Researchers commissioned by the Department of
Health found a sharp reduction in the number of hospital
admissions for heart attacks in England in the year after the
ban on public smoking was imposed in July 2007.
Separate research found an even sharper falls elsewhere in
Britain, with a 14 per cent drop in Scotland, where the ban was
imposed a year earlier. Another study in Wales is expected to
reveal similar results.
The figures come after a Europe-wide study last week named
Britain among the worst countries for deaths from heart disease
with smoking one of the main causes alongside poor diet and lack
of exercise. That report found Britain has some of the highest
deaths rates from heart disease among women with only Hungary,
Estonia, Slovakia doing worse.
The research into heart attack rates in England is being led by
Dr Anna Gilmore, clinical reader in public health at Bath
She said: "There is already overwhelming evidence that reducing
people's exposure to cigarette smoke reduces hospital admissions
due to heart attacks."
Her research is not yet complete and the final results for
England will not be published for several months.
However, a study led by Jill Pell, visiting professor of
health at Glasgow University, found that after the ban the number admitted
to nine Scottish hospitals because of a heart attack fell 14 per cent among
smokers, 19 per cent among former smokers, and 21 per cent for those who had
John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at
Nottingham University, said: "We always knew a public smoking ban would
bring rapid health benefits, but we have been amazed by just how big and how
rapid they are."
Ellen Mason, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation,
explained why smokers and passive smokers have an increased risk of having a
She said: "Exposure to cigarette smoke induces rapid changes in blood
chemistry, making it much more prone to clotting. In someone who has
narrowed or damaged coronary arteries, smoke exposure can tip the balance
and cause a heart attack."
Other western European countries have seen similar falls in heart attack
rates after smoking bans. Figures showed France had a 15 per cent drop in
emergency admissions for heart attacks after a year, while both Italy and
Ireland had an 11 per cent reduction.
In Britain just over one quarter of men and 23 per cent of women smoke
compared with the highest rates in Greece for men at 47 per cent and in
Germany for women at 31 per cent. This puts Britain about mid-table for
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it could not comment on
research that was not yet complete but added: “Smoking is one of the most
challenging public health issues we face. Our Smokefree legislation and
campaigns are having an impact on driving down smoking.
“Over the coming months, we hope to see continued success in saving smokers'
The estimates come as the government launches as a powerful new advertising
campaign featuring children expressing concern about their parents' smoking.
The campaign is backed by an NHS survey of 1,000 children in England which
found 91 per cent of those aged 8-13 do not see smoking as 'cool' and do not
expect to try a cigarette.
Gillian Merron, Public Health Minister said: "We understand how difficult it
is to stop smoking. I hope this new campaign will give mums and dads the
encouragement they need to realise they can do it with help from the NHS,
and support from their children.
"You are four times more likely to quit if you use the free NHS stop smoking
service. The facts are clear – every week 2,000 people die from
smoking-related diseases, which has a devastating effect on children’s
Meanwhile, magistrates were urged to hand out higher fines to shop owners
caught selling cigarettes to children.
Trading standards officers said retailers who break the law are too often
given a "slap on the wrist" or a small fine as punishment.
It follows research by LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory
Services) which revealed a third of fines issued to shop owners were less
than £100 and more than three-quarters were under £350.
The figures were based on information about 72 fines.
Children could get cigarettes from vending machines in more than half (58%)
of test purchases carried out in England, with one in five shops willing to
sell tobacco products to the youngsters, the report also found.
It has been illegal for under-18s to buy tobacco since October 2007 when the
legal age was changed from 16.
Paul Bettison, chairman LACORS chairman, said: "Councils are doing
everything in their power to protect young people from the dangers of
smoking but retailers caught selling to minors are effectively only being
slapped on the wrist with minuscule fines.
"A fine of less than £100 is hardly enough to make a shopkeeper think twice
about selling to children.”