Dr. Corso's med blog: Avoid second hand smoke, but do it for the right reason!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Avoid second hand smoke, but do it for the right reason!

I was recently asked about the danger of lung cancer from second hand smoke since Television spots about such tragedy are now getting a lot of airplay. I think avoiding second hand smoke is great but I prefer a bit more accuracy. There are close to 170,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the US but only about 3000 cancer deaths can be attributed to second hand smoke. And there are a whole lot more nonsmokers than smokers, millions and millions of us. So if lung cancer was the only danger from passive exposure, it would be a relatively rare occurrence.

However, tobacco smoke, whether first or second hand, has now been convincingly demonstrated to be highly toxic to heart health, resulting in added heart attack risk, about 80% as much in second hand exposure as in the actual smoker.

The toxic effects of tobacco smoke on the coronary arteries is almost immediate. This is in contrast to other cardiac risks such as chronically elevated blood pressure or high levels of the “bad cholesterol,” which increase heart attack risk gradually over time. Certain compounds in tobacco smoke represent an acute “assault” on the delicate inner lining of the coronary arteries, the endothelium. These effects can be measured within 30 minutes of smoke exposure.

Although I don’t know of any specific data regarding the timing of second-hand smoke exposure and an actual heart attack, it is well known that when a smoker dies of a heart attack, it is commonly during or within minutes of smoking a cigarette.

Fight to avoid second hand smoke! But do so because of real king of death in America – heart disease.


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