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Smoking Bans Reduce Heart Attack Occurrence

A new report from the Institute of Medicine confirms that there is sufficient evidence that breathing secondhand smoke boosts nonsmokers’ risk for heart problems.  The medical researchers added that indirect evidence indicating that even relatively brief exposures could lead to a heart attack is compelling. 

According to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, some 43 percent of nonsmoking children and 37 percent of nonsmoking adults are exposed to secondhand smoke in the United States. Experts report that roughly 126 million nonsmokers were still being exposed in 2000.

A 2006 report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office concluded that exposure to secondhand smoke causes heart disease and indicated that smoke-free policies are the most economical and effective way to reduce exposure. However, the effectiveness of smoking bans in reducing heart problems has continued to be a source of debate.

The Institute of Medicine researchers conducted a comprehensive review of published and unpublished data and testimony on the relationship between secondhand smoke and short-term and long-term heart problems. Eleven key studies that evaluated the effects of smoking bans on heart attack rates informed the committee’s conclusions about the positive effects of smoke-free policies. The studies calculated that reductions in the incidence of heart attacks range from 6 percent to 47 percent. 

The report was sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.

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