Reductions in admissions for myocardial infarction (MI) have been reported in locales where smoke-free workplace laws have been implemented, but no study has assessed sudden cardiac death in that setting. In 2002, a smoke-free restaurant ordinance was implemented in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and in 2007, all workplaces, including bars, became smoke free.
To evaluate the population impact of smoke-free laws, we measured, through the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the incidence of MI and sudden cardiac death in Olmsted County during the 18-month period before and after implementation of each smoke-free ordinance. All MIs were continuously abstracted and validated, using rigorous standardized criteria relying on biomarkers, cardiac pain, and Minnesota coding of the electrocardiogram. Sudden cardiac death was defined as out-of-hospital deaths associated with coronary disease.
Comparing the 18 months before implementation of the smoke-free restaurant ordinance with the 18 months after implementation of the smoke-free workplace law, the incidence of MI declined by 33% (P < .001), from 150.8 to 100.7 per 100 000 population, and the incidence of sudden cardiac death declined by 17% (P = .13), from 109.1 to 92.0 per 100 000 population. During the same period, the prevalence of smoking declined and that of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity either remained constant or increased.
A substantial decline in the incidence of MI was observed after smoke-free laws were implemented, the magnitude of which is not explained by community cointerventions or changes in cardiovascular risk factors with the exception of smoking prevalence. As trends in other risk factors do not appear explanatory, smoke-free workplace laws seem to be ecologically related to these favorable trends. Secondhand smoke exposure should be considered a modifiable risk factor for MI. All people should avoid secondhand smoke to the extent possible, and people with coronary heart disease should have no exposure to secondhand smoke.