Secondhand Smoke and Heart Disease

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Secondhand Smoke Exposure is a Major Cause of Heart Attacks

  • Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack.1
    • In just five minutes of exposure, secondhand smoke makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.2
  • In 20-30 minutes, fat and blood clots build up in the arteries, increasing the chance of heart attacks and stroke.2
  • After 2 hours of secondhand smoke exposure, the heart rate speeds up and leads to abnormal heart rhythms (which can lead to death).2
  • A heart attack may be more severe than it would have been in the absence of exposure to secondhand smoke.3

Secondhand Smoke Exposure is a Major Cause of Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Fine particle air pollution, carbon monoxide, and nicotine in secondhand smoke are linked to heart disease.1
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels and it causes heart disease and increases the risk of stroke.2
  • People who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of heart disease by 25-30%.1
  • Secondhand smoke and its toxic chemicals damage the cardiovascular system by causing inflammation and blood clots. This evidence suggests that a causal relationship between secondhand smoke and stroke is biologically plausible.1,3
  • Adults who breathe secondhand smoke every day have higher levels of the “bad” cholesterol that can clog the arteries of the heart.3

Smoke-free Laws and Heart Attacks

  • After strong smoke-free laws go into effect, communities experience a 15% drop in heart attacks during the first year, with continued decline of 36% in 3 years.4
  • Smoke-free laws create healthy places for workers and patrons to breathe clean air, and they reduce health care costs. Smoke-free laws are a known public health solution.1

  1. Institute of Medicine. Secondhand smoke exposure and cardiovascular effects: Making sense of the evidence (executive summary) 2009.
  2. Otsuka R, Watanabe H, Hirata K, et al. Acute effects of passive smoking on the coronary circulation in healthy young adults. JAMA. 2001; 286(4):436-441.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease and Prevention and Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health;2006.
  4. Lightwood JM, Glantz SA. Declines in acute myocardial infarction after smoke-free laws and individual risk attributable to secondhand smoke. Circulation. Oct 6 2009; 120(14):1373-1379.