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New Study Confirms Link Between Secondhand Smoke and Heart Disease
by M. Cass Wheeler


July 01, 2004

For the second time this year, a compelling study has found deadly ties between secondhand smoke and its insidious effect on hearts. The study, appearing in the June 30th British Medical Journal, shows an increased risk of heart disease for non-smokers of as much as 60 percent, when regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

The study, conducted over a 20-year period by researchers from St. George's Hospital Medical School in London, measured the presence of a nicotine byproduct, cotinine, in participants' blood. In the study, researchers found that elevated blood cotinine levels were associated with a 50 to 60 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. And, unlike the majority of studies that focus on exposure to secondhand smoke in the home, this recent study also measured exposure in the workplace, restaurants and bars.

A study published in the April British Medical Journal found that during a six-month comprehensive smoking ban in Helena, Mont., the number of heart attacks reported dropped by 40 percent. This decline demonstrated the immediate positive results of enacting clean indoor air policies, and was backed by a commentary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising individuals with heart disease to avoid indoor settings with exposure to secondhand smoke.

Exposing non-smokers to secondhand smoke in public places, the workplace and at bars and restaurants is unnecessary, and this new evidence confirms the danger. According to the CDC, 35,000 Americans die annually from heart disease that results from exposure to secondhand smoke. These are preventable deaths, and it is the responsibility of states and communities to enact policies to protect citizens who have already chosen not to smoke.

Comprehensive clean indoor air policies simply protect each citizen's right to breathe toxin-free air. And, a growing body of evidence shows that smoke-free laws do not harm businesses. Seven states have enacted comprehensive, statewide smoke-free laws, as have cities ranging from Lexington, Ky., to New York City. Research from New York City concludes that not only is the general public supportive of their clean indoor air law, but that restaurants and bars are thriving - higher sales receipts, increased employment, and excellent compliance.

Lawmakers should heed the findings of this study - secondhand smoke kills, and at greater rates than expected. Now is the time to take all citizens' health to heart, adopt clean-indoor air policies in all public places.

M. Cass Wheeler
CEO, American Heart Association
Washington, DC - USA



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