An average of 577 fewer Massachusetts residents have died from heart attacks each year since a statewide ban on smoking in almost all restaurants, bars and workplaces took effect four years ago, according to a study released Wednesday.
The study conducted by the state Department of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health showed that the number of heart attacks began dropping in communities with strong anti-smoking laws even before the 2004 law. Reductions were also seen in communities after the state ban, and by the end of 2006, the rate of decline in all cities and towns had nearly converged.
The authors said the pattern shows that advances in treatment of heart attacks were not responsible for the smaller number of deaths. The study also accounted for variables including pollution, smoking prevalence and seasonality before concluding the smoking ban was the biggest factor in declining deaths.
"While there may be several factors that played a role in this decline, we believe the single most compelling reason was reduced exposure to secondhand smoke in workplaces across the state," DPH Commissioner John Auerbach said.