Background: Introducing comprehensive smoke-free policies to public places is expected to reduce health costs. This includes prevented health damages by avoiding environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure as well as indirect health benefits from reduced tobacco consumption.
Methods: The aim of this study was to estimate direct health costs of ETS exposure in public places and indirect health benefits from reduced tobacco consumption. We calculated attributable hospital days and years of life lost (YLL), based on the observed passive smoking and disease rates in Switzerland. The exposure-response associations of all relevant health outcomes were derived by meta-analysis from prospective cohort studies in order to calculate the direct health costs. To assess the indirect health benefits, a meta-analysis of smoking ban studies on hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction was conducted.
Results: ETS exposure in public places in Switzerland causes 32,000 preventable hospital days (95% CI: 10,000-61,000), 3000 YLL (95% CI: 1000-5000), corresponding to health costs of 330 Mio CHF. The number of hospital days for ischaemic heart disease attributable to passive smoking is much larger if derived from smoking ban studies (41,000) than from prospective cohort studies (3200), resulting in additional health costs of 89 Mio CHF, which are attributed to the indirect health benefits of a smoking ban introduction.
Conclusion: The example of smoking ban studies on ischaemic heart disease hospitalization rates suggests that total health costs that can be prevented with smoking bans are considerably larger than the costs arising from the direct health impact of ETS exposure in public places.