It’s working: Lung cancer rates have gone down in communities with strong smoking laws, study results reveal

Imposing strong smoke-free workplace laws may lead to a significant decline in lung cancer rates, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. A team of researchers at the University of Kentucky has examined how smoke-free laws affect lung cancer prevalence across the state as part of the study. Data show that Kentucky has more cases of lung cancer than any other state. Likewise, the state has a lung cancer mortality rate that is 50 percent higher compared with the national average. The researchers explain that environmental factors, smoking, and secondhand smoke exposure contribute to the onset of lung cancer.

The research team examined new lung cancer diagnoses among middle aged and older patients living in communities with strong, moderate and weak smoke-free laws. The results show that the incidence of lung cancer is up to eight percent lower in areas with strong smoke-free workplace laws than those without the policy. The experts have also found no difference in lung cancer rates between areas with either weak or moderate smoke-free laws and those without smoking laws.

“Kentucky has one of the highest adult cigarette smoking rates and the highest rate of new lung cancer cases in the nation. Only one-third of Kentuckians are protected by strong smoke-free workplace laws. Local government can play a critical role in preventing lung cancer. Elected officials can ensure that all workers and the public are protected from secondhand smoke by passing strong smoke-free laws with few or no exceptions,” researcher Ellen Hahn tells Science Daily online.

According to the researchers, the findings may promote the creation of policies that focus on establishing more communities with strong smoke-free workplace laws across the state.

“The mission of the UK Markey Cancer Center is to reduce the overwhelming burden of cancer in our state. This new study shows that having strong smoke-free workplace laws in place to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke is one more way we can help protect our citizens from this devastating disease,” Markey director Dr. Mark Evers adds.

Smoking ban spurs positive effects as well, experts say

Data from Cancer Research UK also reveal that imposing a smoking ban in 2007 helped reduce the rates of lung cancer among male smokers. According to the results, the proportion of smokers ages 16 to 24 years old had significantly declined from 26 percent in 2007 to only 17 percent in 2017 following the smoking ban. The researchers have also found that 20 percent of smokers reported smoking fewer cigarettes after the ban took effect. Likewise, 14 percent of smokers have stated that the ban has helped them quit for good. (Related: Reverse damage from smoking just by quitting: The body has a remarkable ability to heal itself.)

“It’s rewarding to know that this effort will go on to have a great impact on the health of future generations…As well as protecting people from the deadly effects of passive smoking, we’ve also seen big changes in public attitudes towards smoking. It’s now far less socially acceptable and we hope this means fewer young people will fall into such a potentially lethal addiction,” Cancer Research UK chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar states in a Daily Express report.

Fast facts on U.S. lung cancer rates

The recent findings may have potential implications in smoking control and lung cancer prevention. An article posted on the American Cancer Society website shows that:

  • Lung cancer is currently the second most common type of cancer in both men and women across the U.S.
  • About 14 percent of all new cancer cases in the U.S. are lung cancers.
  • About 116,990 men and 105,510 women are estimated to develop lung cancer in 2017 alone.
  • As many as 84,590 men and 71,280 women are likely to die of lung cancer in the same year.

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