NSI: Smoking ban in France, Italy leads to sharp decline in heart attacks
A striking 15 percent decrease in admissions of patients with myocardial infarction to emergency wards has been seen since the public ban on smoking came into effect in restaurants, hotels and casinos in France last January, according to researchers at the National Sanitary Institute.

Similar results were published in Italy on Feb. 12 by the Environmental Health Authority. Researchers in Rome found an 11.2 percent reduction of acute coronary events since the January 2005 smoking ban took effect in Italy.

Governments must learn from these findings and not give in to pressure from the tobacco lobby, said Daniel Thomas, MD, of the European Society of Cardiology and a senior cardiologist in the Centre Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris.

“It is very important to stress the immediate results observed on cardiovascular disease when people live in smoke free environments,” Thomas said.

Despite these two success stories, cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in the European Union, killing over 2 million people per year. New figures published this month in the European Heart Journal highlight the significant differences in cardiovascular disease across Europe.

Researchers, led by Jacqueline Muller-Nordhorn, MD, from the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charite University Medical Center in Berlin, found that mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) were high in some Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Portugal, and in regions in southern Spain and Italy. They also found that many countries had changed from being high to low risk and that current classifications did not take into account the considerable regional variations.

These disparities are associated with differences in diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, physical activity, the quality of medical care and environmental factors. Western European countries show a trend towards lower mortality rates linked to CVD. Finland appears to be an example of how public health interventions can make a big difference to reduce death caused by heart disease.

Statistics show that CVD costs the European economy €192 billion a year (U.S. $290 billion), which results in a per capita cost of €391 (U.S. $590). Of this, 57 percent is directly linked to health care, 21 percent to productivity losses and 22 percent to the cost of informal care provided by relatives and friends.