An Irish study has found that emergency room admissions due to respiratory illness dropped significantly in Ireland after the implementation of a workplace smoking ban in March 2004, compared to admissions that took place before the ban went into effect. The findings were presented this week at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver.

While previous studies have shown workplace smoking bans lead to reduced systemic inflammation and improved respiratory health, as well as reduced emergency admissions due to acute coronary syndromes, the researchers wanted to look at the effect of such bans on respiratory illness in an adult, working-age population.

For the study, the researchers evaluated data from the Hospital Inpatient Enquiry (HIPE), a computer-based database system designed to collect demographic, clinical, and administrative data on discharges and deaths from hospitals nationwide. Admissions data relating to emergency pulmonary, cardiac, and cerebrovascular hospital admissions for the two years preceding, and the two years succeeding the implementation of the smoking ban were collected, and population, weather, pollution, and influenza data for the same time periods were obtained.

The researchers used the data to evaluate any change in emergency admissions due to all pulmonary disease and combined cardio-pulmonary illness between the two periods. In addition, they examined admissions due to specific pulmonary diagnoses, acute coronary syndrome, and acute cerebrovascular syndrome. The analysis was divided into age and gender groups, and restricted to the working-age population (age 20 to 70 years).

The findings showed a significant reduction in emergency hospital admissions due to cardio-pulmonary disease in the two years following the smoking ban, and a trend towards reduced pulmonary admissions. The most pronounced decrease in pulmonary admissions was observed in the 20- to 29-year-old age group. A significant decrease also was seen in emergency asthma admissions, and there was a trend towards fewer admissions with acute coronary syndrome, especially among men aged 50 to 59 years and 60 to 69 years. No difference was observed in cerebrovascular disease.

“The reductions in these admissions may result from reduced exposure of vulnerable individuals to environmental tobacco smoke,” said Imran Sulaiman, MD, study author and pulmonary resident at Galway University Hospitals. “These results further emphasize the benefit of reducing secondhand smoke exposure.”

Source: American Thoracic Society