Heart attacks dip after smoking ban in Starkville

STARKVILLE – A ban on indoor smoking has paid big dividends for the health of Starkville residents.
In the three years after the ban was enacted in 2006, Starkville had 27 percent fewer heart attacks than in the three years preceding the ban, based on the results of a Mississippi State University Social Science Research Study released Monday.
“We are excited about the finding,” said researcher Robert McMillan, who with Dr. Robert Collins, director of MSU Health Services, conducted the study.
Researchers analyzed the number of heart attacks diagnosed at Oktibbeha County Hospital in Starkville, McMillen said.
The data also included people who were transferred to other hospitals for a higher level of care, McMillen said.
Researchers are working with hospitals to gather data from Tupelo and Hattiesburg, which enacted their own indoor smoking bans after Starkville. Tupelo’s ban took effect in October 2006.
Starkville’s reduction in heart attacks probably means the most to non-smokers.
“The assumption is that it’s being driven by non-smokers who no longer are exposed to secondhand smoke,” McMillan said. “But we need more research to confirm that.”
Health advocates say the research builds an even stronger case for bans in Mississippi and beyond.
“The study the MSU research center conducted confirms the value and need for smoke-free environments,” said Jennifer Cofer, deputy director for the American Lung Association Mississippi, which was part of a coalition pushing for tobacco legislation.
“Health advocates will continue to push for a statewide smoke-free law during the 2010 legislative session.”
In October, the National Institutes of Health reviewed 11 studies including the Starkville data and concluded there is a consensus that smoking bans do reduce the number of heart attacks, McMillan said.
“When we started this,” McMillen said, “the research on heart attacks was not as well accepted.”

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal