Report Confirms Smoking Bans Prevent Heart Attacks

IOM report confirms evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease.

    • October 15, 2009

A new report from by the Institute of Medicine, Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence, confirms scientific evidence that smoke-free laws prevent heart attacks and save lives.

The new report was written at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the wake of a growing number of studies from smoke-free states and countries that found that smoke-free laws reduced heart attack rates. The committee that prepared the report reviewed 11 studies done in the U.S., Canada, Italy and Scotland.

The report found that:

  • The evidence is consistent with a causal relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and acute coronary events, including heart attacks.
  • It is biologically plausible for a relatively brief exposure to secondhand smoke to precipitate a heart attack.
  • There is a causal relationship between smoke-free laws and decreases in heart attacks.

A 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report found that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and indicated that smoke-free policies are the most economical and effective way to reduce exposure. The IOM adds significantly to the Surgeon General’s report with its conclusions that smoke-free laws prevent heart attacks and even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can precipitate a heart attack.

This report is a powerful reminder of why we need comprehensive smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “While 27 states have now enacted smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars,” says Lavizzo-Mourey, “we can't be satisfied until all Americans are protected from the deadly diseases caused by secondhand smoke.”

Matthew L. Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says the report should spur every state to enact a comprehensive smoke-free law that includes all workplaces, restaurants and bars. “No one should have to put themselves at risk of a heart attack, lung cancer or the other serious diseases caused by secondhand smoke in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.”

But experts say it will take a multiple efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth and adults. “The multi-pronged approach we need,” says Danny McGoldrick, vice president, research, at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “includes an increase in tobacco taxes, funding for tobacco-cessation programs and comprehensive smoke-free laws that that protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.”

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