A new Kansas University study on public smoking bans provides just the kind of evidence Gov. Mark Parkinson needs to help promote a statewide smoking ban.
The governor has said the ban will be a top priority for his office during the next legislative session. A KU study scheduled for publication today is almost certain to be part of that discussion.
The research conducted at KU Medical Center indicates that smoking bans reduce the number of heart attacks by as much as 26 percent. That means a nationwide ban could prevent up to 154,000 heart attacks a year, according to the study’s lead investigator, David Meyers, KU professor of cardiology and preventive medicine.
Heart attacks were used as the measurement in the study because they develop relatively quickly as a result of smoke exposure. The KU study involved 24 million people over about three years. Such an extensive study eliminates the argument that such statistics are the result of “bad science,” said Meyers.
A number of Kansas cities, including Lawrence already ban smoking in indoor public places such as restaurants, but the provisions of those bans vary from place to place. A statewide ban would have the advantage of standardizing those provisions across the state, protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke and perhaps encouraging some smokers to kick the habit.
A smoking ban is almost certain to draw some opposition, but objections seem to be weakening. Thirty-two states have enacted statewide smoking bans. A 2007 survey found that 71 percent of Kansans favored such a ban, and the municipal bans that have been enacted are being well accepted.
The KU researchers have their sights set on a nationwide ban, but a statewide ban in their home state would be a good first step. A statewide ban needs to minimize exceptions that would water down its health benefits. The Lawrence law wouldn’t be a bad example to follow.
Legislators will once again face a tight budget situation when they convene in January. It’s a tough year to ask for more money, but it might be a good year for a proposal like a smoking ban that will save both state health care dollars and state lives.