Secondhand Cigarette Smoke A Component of Air Pollution

American Heart Association
Tuesday, 1 June 2004

Recently, an American Heart Association panel conducted a comprehensive review of literature on air pollution and its relationship to cardiovascular diseases. The resulting scientific statement, which appears in the current issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, concludes that air pollution is a serious public health threat and contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, and other serious illnesses.

Of the pollutants reviewed, one of them, although extremely dangerous and common, is relatively easy to control. Secondhand smoke kills an estimated 38,000 Americans annually, 35,000 of which are from heart disease. Even if people choose not to smoke, they can still suffer the consequences by living, working or even dining where smoking is allowed.

Fortunately, exposure to this pollutant can be easily prevented, by adopting comprehensive clean indoor air policies policies that guarantee workers, diners, bar patrons, and all members of a community or state protection of the air they breathe. No one should have to work or dine in the smoky haze of cigarette smoke a substance known to contain more than 4,000 chemical compounds. Eight states and hundreds of communities across the country have already adopted strong bans on smoking, without any negative social or economic consequences.

The link between secondhand smoke and disease is well known, and the connection to cardiovascular-related disability and death is also clear. In fact, in a study from Helena, Mont., last year, researchers found an immediate reduction in the number of heart attacks a 40 percent decline when a clean indoor air policy was in effect in all public places. A year later, when the same policy was overturned, the number of heart attacks returned to previous levels.

Secondhand smoke is an obvious and simple pollutant to tackle, and our legislators and community leaders should rise to the task of protecting all citizens equally, no matter what job you choose or where you choose to dine. We all know where this pollutant comes from, and what is responsible. There is no longer any excuse to avoid protecting all citizens from this deadly pollutant.

For more information, or to contact American Heart Association, see their website at: www.americanheart.org

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