The team, led by Dr. Mecello Di Valentino from the San Giovanni hospital in Bellinzona, studied the impact of a smoking ban introduced by Ticino in 2007.
In the period from 2007 to 2010, the number of dangerous heart attacks in the canton dropped by a fifth, according the research.
Over the same period in the canton of Basel-City, which did not have a smoking ban, levels of heart disease remained stable, the study found.
The findings were made public over the weekend at the European Society of Cardiology’s meeting in Amsterdam.
Dr. Di Valentino collected data on the most serious kinds of heart attacks registered in Ticino hospitals in the three years before and after the smoking ban was brought into place.
Comparisons were made with similar data obtained from the university hospital in the canton of Basel City.
The findings were particularly dramatic for admissions of heart patients over the age of 65, which fell by 27 percent for both men and women.
“Introduction of the smoking ban in public places induced a significant and long-lasting reduction of STEMI (severe heart attacks) among the overall population of canton of Ticino,” a member of the research group, Dr. Alessandra Pia Porretta, said in a presentation of the findings in Amsterdam.
The researchers said the findings support the public health benefits of smoking bans in public areas.
“Second-hand smoke increases the risk of coronary artery disease and acute myocardial infarction,” according to the European Society of Cardiology.
“For this reason health policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and public smoke exposure are highly recommended.”