A new report released this week by the Institute of Medicine confirms that smoking bans do indeed reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart disease associated with exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, the report, based on data from 11 key studies on heart attack rates, confirms that breathing secondhand smoke increases nonsmokers' risk for heart problems. Those studies found that the incidence of heart attacks dropped anywhere from 6 percent to 47 percent after cities, states, or even whole countries like Italy or Scotland banned indoor smoking.
Exposure to secondhand smoke appears to increase the risk of heart disease by about 25 to 30 percent among nonsmokers, the IOM concluded. And in the United States alone, secondhand smoke is estimated to be responsible for approximately 46,000 deaths from heart disease, 3,400 lung cancer deaths
, 150,000 to 300,000 lung infections, including pneumonia
in children, an increase in the severity of asthma attacks from about 200,000 to 1 million in children with asthma
, and more than 750,000 middle ear infections in children.
Back when Consumer Reports investigated the risks associated with secondhand smoke in 1995, the idea that secondhand smoke could cause heart disease was still under debate. At the time, just five states had outlawed smoking in the workplace. Today, 25 states, plus the District of Columbia have such laws, and the connection between secondhand smoke and heart disease is no longer in doubt--thanks in large part to the ability of researchers to track the incidence of heart attacks and heart disease before and after such bans.
Considering the damage cigarette smoke does to your health and the health of those around you, there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke. If you’re a smoker, you should try to quit and using one of the several safe and effective ways to do so. Take a look at these realistic tips to help you quit smoking
, and if you need additional help quitting, see our comparison of 10 drug and non-drug treatments
(subscribers only). Taking steps now to quit, even if you’ve been smoking for years, reduces your chances of getting heart disease and cancer, and it may help you to not only live longer, but also better.
There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Take a look at what smoking does to your body and see how quitting can save you $36,000 or more.