Smoking in enclosed public places was banned in Scotland in March 2006
A possible link between a smoking ban in bars and restaurants and a reduction in severe heart attacks has been found by scientists.
Edinburgh University researchers made the findings during a study in New Zealand three years after a smoking ban was introduced there.
They discovered hospital admissions for heart attacks among men and women aged 55-74 fell by 9%.
This figure rose to 13% for 55 to 74-year-olds who had never smoked.
Overall, the research showed heart attacks among people aged 30 and over fell by an average of 5% in the three years following the ban.
The study, involving scientists from the University of Edinburgh, looked at trends in acute heart attacks following a change in legislation.
The ruling, which updated a previous law in which smoking was outlawed in some public places, made smoking illegal in all workplaces including bars and restaurants.
A smoking ban in public places was introduced into Scotland in March 2006.
Researchers also found that heart attacks in New Zealand were reduced for ex-smokers of all ages, and that there was a greater decrease in hospital admissions for men compared with women.
Dr Jamie Pearce, of Edinburgh University's school of geosciences, who took part in the study, said: "This short-term research indicates a link between a smoking ban in bars and restaurants and a reduction in severe heart attacks.
"However, more work is needed to look at the effects of the ban in greater detail."
The study, carried out with the universities of Otago and Canterbury in New Zealand and Southampton University, has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.