Secondhand Smoke Can Increase Heart Attack Risk for Cardiac Patients, CDC Says
In a commentary to a study published Thursday in BMJ, CDC is warning people with cardiac problems that being exposed to secondhand smoke for as few 30 minutes can significantly increase heart attack risk, the Washington Post reports. This is the agency's first recommendation that health providers advise certain patients to avoid indoor settings where smoking is allowed, according to Terry Pechacek, associate director of science at CDC's Office on Smoking and Health and an author of the study. Previously, CDC stated that secondhand smoke increases risk of heart disease in nonsmokers. The commentary accompanies a study by Richard Sargent and Robert Shepard of St. Peter's Community Hospital in Helena, Mont., and Stanton Glantz of the University of California-San Francisco. Researchers compared the number of heart attacks at the hospital during a six-month period in 2002 -- when an indoor smoking ban was in effect in Helena -- with similar data before the ban was implemented and after its repeal. They found that while the ban was in effect, 24 Helena residents had heart attacks, compared with an average of 40 heart attacks during the same six months in the five years preceding and following the ban. Researchers found that during the ban, the number of heart attacks among people who lived outside Helena in towns without similar bans remained unchanged from previous levels. In addition, after the ban was repealed, the number of heart attacks among Helena residents "rose quickly to its former level," the Post reports. Of the patients studied, 38% were current smokers, 29% were former smokers and 33% had never smoked. While Pechacek said that the study is limited by the small number of patients examined, he added that the findings are important because they offer the "best real-world information to date on the connection between indoor smoking and serious heart problems," the Post reports. He added that the study "strengthens the growing body of research pointing to potentially fast and acute reactions to secondhand smoke," according to the Post. "What we are seeing in the data is a substantial biological change that occurs with even 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke," Pechacek said. CDC estimates secondhand smoke causes 35,000 heart disease deaths a year nationwide; that estimate likely will be raised soon, according to Pechacek (Kaufman, Washington Post, 4/23). The commentary and the study are available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.