Public and workplace smoking bans lower heart attacks 36%
By RHIANNON BOWMAN
Smoking creates more than 400,000 premature deaths in the United States annually. When lost productivity and healthcare costs are combined, the total impact to the U. S. economy is $167 billion per year.[i] Until recently, a good bit of that smoking occurred at work, and in public places. Recently, a movement to ban workplace smoking and smoking in bars, restaurants, airports, and similar public places has arisen with great results.
So far, 39 states have banned smoking to some degree [ii]. (Michigan's smoking ban will go into effect in March 2010 [iii] and Wisconsin's ban will go into effect in June 2010 [iv].) These bans have been enacted at the municipal level, the workplace lever, and the eating/drink establishment level. According to the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, the rate of heart attacks alone has been shown to fall 36 percent in communities after they instituted public and workplace smoking bans [v]. In a society where roughly half of all healthcare costs are borne by taxpayers, this can impact tax rates.
According to the Society of Actuaries, if all workplaces were to implement 100% smoke-free policies, the reduction in heart attack rates alone (this does not count cancer, asthma, strokes, etc) due to exposure to secondhand smoke would save the United States $49 million in direct medical savings within the first year alone. If employees have employer furnished health insurance, these costs would normally be paid by the employer through the health insurance plan they furnish employees. Savings would increase over time. [vi]
The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that adopting smoke-free workplace policies is a wise business decision. The results of all credible peer-reviewed studies show that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have a negative impact on business revenues. Establishing smoke-free workplaces is the simplest and most cost effective way to improve worker and business health. [vii]
That's what Megan Garrison, the day manager at the Corner Bar in Liberty, Mo., is discovering. She told Angie Anaya Borgedalen, editor of The Liberty Tribune, that she noticed a slight dip in the number of patrons at her restaurant the week after a smoking ban – barring smoking in public places and enclosed areas – was enacted in Liberty last November. [viii]
Now, however, Garrison says not only are her old customers back, she's noticing new customers as well – younger ones, too.
Conducting a headcount before and after a ban is one way to gauge how a smoking ban is affecting the bottom line, but there's much more to it than that. Americans for Non-Smoker's Rights points out other cost savings businesses and organizations experience once workers put out their smokes, like a drop in insurance rates, productivity increases when smoking breaks cease, workers taking fewer sick days and reduced maintenance costs (such as cleaning).