Two separate recent studies show that overall, there’s a 17% decrease in the number of heart attacks once a smoking ban is put into effect, and that this effect increases over time. One study calculates that there’s a 26% drop in heart attacks each year after smoking bans have gone into effect. And this isn’t just saving smokers, but anyone who inhales second-hand smoke.
"Secondhand smoke exposure is nearly as harmful to the heart as is chronic active smoking," writes Steven A. Schroeder, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco. "It is prudent to assume that exposure to secondhand smoke is almost as dangerous to persons with diagnosed or latent coronary disease as active smoking."
Cardiosmart.org pointed out exactly what breathing in the smoke from someone else's cigarette can do that makes it so bad for you:
• Make the blood sticky and more prone to clotting
• Stiffen the arteries
• Disrupt crucial functions of the arteries
• Decrease good HDL cholesterol
• Stimulate inflammation
• Make heart attacks worse
• Increase damage from free radicals
• Increase risk of heart rhythm problems
• Increase insulin resistance
"It is hard to imagine substances that would be more cardiotoxic," Schroeder suggests. "Furthermore, these adverse effects are observed at very low exposures."
Luckily, it doesn't take a whole year for smoking bans to show results. David G. Meyers, MD, MPH, of the University of Kansas, lead author of one of the studies said declines in heart attacks are apparent within three months.
The Lightwood study appears in the early online issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. The Meyers study and the Schroeder editorial appear in the Sept. 29 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.