Comprehensive Smoke-free Ordinances Reduce Risk of Lung Cancer

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People living in counties with strong smoke-free policies were 7.9% less likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer compared with those living in counties with no protection.
People living in counties with strong smoke-free policies were 7.9% less likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer compared with those living in counties with no protection.

Kentucky has about 4000 new cases of lung cancer each year, according to Ellen J. Hahn, PhD, RN, FAAN, of the University of Kentucky College of Nursing in Lexington. If, however, there were strong smoke-free ordinances in every county of the state, there would likely be many fewer lung cancer cases each year, according to the results of Dr Hahn's study published recently in Cancer.1

Unlike some states with statewide smoke-free ordinances, Kentucky — a tobacco-growing state — has relatively weak policies, according to Dr Hahn.

“Not only do we not have very many smoke-free protections, we also have low tobacco taxes,” she explained. “Places like Kentucky and other states in the Midwest and South aren't as likely to have these types of laws.”

The study was a secondary analysis of more than 80,000 Kentucky residents aged 50 years or older who were diagnosed with lung cancer between 1995 and 2014. In previous research, Dr Hahn and colleagues found links between smoke-free ordinances in Kentucky and effects on emphysema, asthma, and heart attack. They hypothesized that communities with strong smoke-free laws covering everyone in all workplaces would have fewer cases of lung cancer.

According to Dr Hahn, comprehensive or “strong” smoke-free laws were those that restricted all smoking inside all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Everyone, Dr Hahn's reasoning goes, is treated the same in public spaces and workplaces by being able to breath smoke-free air.

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