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Secondhand smoke causes heart attacks

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Last week the U.S. Institute of medicine (IOM) released a new report on the role of exposure to other people’s cigarette smoke in increasing the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

The IOM requested a 10-member expert committee to review the evidence on the effects of secondhand smoke (SHS) and bans on smoking in public places on rates of heart attacks. When evaluating the effects of bans on smoking in public places, the committee focused on 11 studies that they felt had the best methodology for evaluating these effects. All 11 of these studies reported a reduction in the rates of heart attacks after a ban on smoking in public places was implemented. However, the size of the effect varied considerably from study to study (from a 6% reduction to a 47% reduction in heart attacks).

So what does this mean? Here are some of the practical implications:

- if you are a smoker, it’s important that you are aware that if you smoke near other people (i.e. to the extent they can small smoke), the smoke you leave in the air will harm the health of those other people in various ways, including increasing their risk of a heart attack.
- If you place yourself in a situation where you have to breath other people’s cigarette smoke, it will damage your own health and increase your risks of having a heart attack.
- If your state has not yet passed legislation banning smoking in all workplaces (and bars and restaurants are workplaces) then it is putting the health of those workers at risk.
- Cities and states that have passed legislation banning smoking in public places have generally seen a 20-30% reduction in the rate of heart attacks.
- Allowing smoking inside your home puts the health of all those living at home at risk.

The summary of the report, as well as the full report itself can be found online at:

http://www.iom.edu/en/Reports/2009/Secondhand-Smoke-Exposure-and-Cardiovascular-Effects-Making-Sense-of-the-Evidence.aspx
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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