State Anti-smoking Laws Linked To Fewer Deaths

As Boston city officials contemplate banning smoking cigarettes in city parks, a new state by state analysis issued by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network yesterday finds the smoking cigarettes restrictions now in place in Mass. have most likely resulted in an estimated 270 fewer heart attack deaths each year in the state. What’s more, the report finds that the smoke-free laws, which went into effect seven years ago, had no “statistically significant economic impact” on bars or restaurants -- which had to institute a total ban on smoking cigarettes along with all workplaces.

If the state raised its cigarette tax -- which currently stands at $2.51 per pack -- by $1 per pack, it would fare even better, according to a second ACS CAN report also released yesterday. About 22,200 fewer young people would start smoking cigarettes and, over five years, the state would save an estimated $9.05 million in health care costs for smoking cigarettes-related lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes. (Health officials would also have more money to fund smoking cigarettes cessation programs.)

“The bottom line is that strong cheap cigarettes controls polices are are win-win,” said John Seffrin, chief executive officer of ACS CAN during a press conference. “They have the potential to save billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Of course, not all states agree. Some 15 states -- including big cigarettes-producing ones in the South like Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia -- have no smoking cigarettes restrictions and miniscule taxes of 30 to 40 cents per pack. An additional 12 states have far weaker laws than Mass. and more modest taxes.

New Hampshire, for example, has a law that prohibits smoking cigarettes in restaurants and bars, but it does not have a comprehensive law banning smoking cigarettes in all workplaces. The new report estimates that if New Hampshire were to ban workplace smoking cigarettes, the state would “prevent about 3,200 youth from becoming smokers, and within five years, save an estimated $14.72 million in lung cancer, heart attack, and stroke costs.”

The analysis comes at a time when some states -- like Nevada with its giant Las Vegas casinos -- are considering rolling back their smoke-free laws.

“Passing a law is not the end;” said Christopher Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “Laws then have to be protected.”