By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – A new study offered clinical evidence that Rhode Island’s 2005 ban on smoking in public places and workplaces has been effective in cutting hospitalization rates for heart attacks.
Between 2003 and 2009, the study findings showed that there was a 28.4 percent drop in admissions at Rhode Island’s 11 acute care hospitals for acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and a 14.6 percent reduction in medical costs, representing a savings of more than $6 million, based on projected reimbursable costs.
The study, “The Impact of Rhode Island’s Statewide Smoke-Free Ordinance on Hospital Admissions and Costs for Acute Myocardial Infarction and Asthma,” compared the rates of admissions for two conditions, heart attacks and asthma, against a control group that measured the rates of hospitalization for appendicitis. Patients under the age of 18 and out-of-state residents were excluded.
The study demonstrated the value of investing in preventive measures to reduce health costs and improve health outcomes, according to Dr. Michael Fine, director of the R.I. Department of Health.
“The results contribute to the growing number of studies showing the significant health benefits and cost savings gained by having a statewide ban on indoor smoking in place,” Fine said.
Under Fine’s leadership, tobacco-free living, the top priority under the National Prevention Strategy for public health, has set continuing aggressive goals to further reduce tobacco use, including preventing initial tobacco use among young people, eliminating nonsmokers exposure to second-hand smoke, and promotion of quitting among young adults.
In a separate matter on the tobacco front, major tobacco companies – including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris USA Inc., the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Manufacturing Co., American Snuff Company, and the Lorillard Tobacco Co. – filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking to block the city of Providence’s new ordinances set to take effect March 1. The ordinances ban sales of non-cigarette tobacco products marketed as having candy or fruit flavors.