RENO — There’s little question that smoking has negative effects on health, both for the smoker and anyone in their vicinity, so how much has Nevada’s partial smoking ban benefitted people in the state?
According to Wei Yang, a health informatics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and director of the Nevada Center for Health Statistics and Informatics, hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and stroke have decreased since the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act (NCIAA) was implemented in 2007.
“Tobacco smoke has more than 4,000 chemicals in it and accounts for 20 percent of all deaths in the U.S.,” Yang said Friday afternoon during a meeting of the Nevada Public Health Association (NPHA) held on the UNR campus.
But, Yang said, recent studies have shown that smoking bans have decreased the number of hospital admissions for diseases related to breathing second-hand smoke.
A team of UNR researchers, including Yang, Chris Pritsos, chair of the nutrition department in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, and John Packham of the University of Nevada School of Medicine, analyzed data from 1991 to 2009 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Health Information Analysis to determine the impact of the smoking ban.
“They collect every possible in-patient report,” Yang said of the Center for Health Information Analysis.
According to a UNR newsletter, the study found that following the implementation of the NCIAA, the hospital admissions in Nevada for AMI decreased an average of 346 per year, while admissions for stroke decreased an average of 315 per year. Hospital bills in Nevada also decreased an annual average of $23.5 million for AMI (including an estimated reduction of $900,000 for Medicaid and $7.5 million for Medicare) and $9.8 million for stroke (including an estimated reduction of $600,000 for Medicaid and $4 million for Medicare).
Some might argue that perhaps decreases in overall hospital admissions account for the decrease in admissions related to second-hand smoke, but Yang said this is not the case.
“We used the overall admissions as a true variable,” he said, “and overall admissions actually increased.”
Yang said the findings of the UNR research team are comparable with results of similar studies done in other states, and that the team could not find other major reasons for the decrease in stroke and AMI admissions.
“We couldn’t find other major reasons for this decrease except the implementation of this act,” Yang said.
The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act was passed in 2006 and was enforced statewide in 2007. The act banned smoking in most public places and in all enclosed workplaces, including restaurants and bars serving food. But smoking is still allowed in certain areas of casinos, which has some people concerned.
Christopher Cochran, Ph.D, an associate professor at UNLV, conducted a study of 15 Las Vegas casinos located off the strip to determine how much smoke travels from smoking areas to non-smoking areas where children might be present.
“There are no barriers keeping second-hand smoke from drifting into areas where children can be,” Cochran said as he pointed to an example of a casino floor plan Friday at the NPHA meeting at UNR.
Using a device that measures particulate matter levels in the air, Cochran’s team found the level of smoke in the gaming area directly correlated with the level of smoke in other areas of the casino such as arcades and bowling alleys.
“The conclusion is that the partial smoke-free setting fails to preserve air quality in settings that have smoking and non-smoking areas,” Cochran said. “… And the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers has determined no air purification system can eliminate the carcinogens in second-hand smoke.”