When smoking was banned from casinos in Colorado in the United States, ambulance calls to casinos in the area dropped about 20 percent, according to research reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
The drop in calls from casinos was similar to drops in ambulance calls from elsewhere two years earlier when Colorado banned smoking everywhere but casinos.
How did the smoking ban lead to a reduction in ambulance calls? Partially by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, said Stanton Glantz, PhD, the study’s lead author.
“Inhaling secondhand smoke increases the chances of blood clots than can block arteries and makes it more difficult for arteries to expand properly, changes that can trigger heart attacks,” said Glantz, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education and professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “The calls may also have decreased due to smokers not being able to smoke in the casinos, thus avoiding the immediate toxic effects of smoke on their blood and blood vessels and because some people quit smoking.”
For this study, the first to examine the health impact of smoking bans in casinos, researchers focused on the number of ambulance calls in Gilpin County, Colorado, a tourist destination with 26 casinos – the largest concentration in the state.
Smoking was banned from public locations, including workplaces, restaurants and bars in Colorado in 2006, and ambulance calls to those locations went down 22.8 percent. Casinos, however, were exempt from the ban and their ambulance calls remained about the same.
Then, in 2008, smoking was extinguished at the casinos, too, and ambulance calls there dropped by 19.1 percent, while there was no further change at the other facilities.
“The fact that there were changes only at the time the law changed in both venues is strong evidence that the law is what caused the change in ambulance calls,” according to Glantz.
“Casinos are often exempted from legislation mandating smoke-free environments, putting employees and patrons at risk for heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks and other adverse events triggered by secondhand smoke,” Glantz said.