The ban on smoking in public places has triggered a greater-than-expected fall in the number of heart attacks.

Early results of a study commissioned by the Department of Health revealed heart attack rates dropped by about 10 per cent in England in the year after the ban was introduced in July 2007, The Sunday Times reported.

Separate research found an even sharper decrease – 14 per cent – in Scotland, where the ban was imposed a year earlier. A study in Wales is expected to reveal similar results. The English research is being led by Anna Gilmore, of Bath University.

She said: "There is overwhelming evidence that reducing people's exposure to cigarette smoke reduces hospital admissions due to heart attacks." France had a 15 per cent drop in emergency admissions for heart attacks after a year; Italy and Ireland had an 11 per cent cut.