Strong smoke-free workplace laws are effective in reducing new cases of lung cancer – that’s the takeaway from a new University of Kentucky study. But the numbers also suggest communities with partial smoke-free laws aren’t seeing any of the same benefits.
Researchers looked at 20 years’ worth of data for Kentuckians over the age of 50, and found that counties with smoke-free laws covering all workplace and public places indoors saw an eight percent drop in new lung cancer cases.
Yet UK professor Dr. Ellen Hahn says communities with less comprehensive laws saw no discernable effect.
"This is a case where compromise really doesn't cut it," she says. "If as local official is considering passing a smoke-free law, they really need to cover everyone."
Kentucky has higher lung cancer rates than any other state, despite about a third of the population being covered by strong smoke-free laws. Also, UK researchers say the mortality rate of those cancers is about 50 percent higher than the national average. But Hahn counters that lung cancer relatively preventable if communities and individuals take the advice of anti-smoking advocates.
"If every county in Kentucky had a strong smoke-free law, we would save 325 lung cancer cases a year," she tells WUKY.
The data was compiled from the Kentucky Cancer Registry, the Cancer Research Informatics Shared Resource Facility, and the UK Markey Cancer Center.