Almost four decades after the Surgeon General first suggested secondhand smoke causes heart attacks, the National Institute of Medicine says there's no doubt about it.
Snuff 'em out, if you've got 'em.
Snuff 'em out, if you've got 'em. iStockphoto.com
The experts rest their case on 11 studies that looked at heart attack rates after communities banned smoking in public. They all showed the same thing—a pretty quick drop in heart attacks, ranging from 6 to 47 percent, depending on the study.
The 11-member IOM panel was especially struck by two studies — one from Monroe County, Indiana, the other from Scotland. They showed a clear benefit of public-smoking bans on nonsmokers.
The analysis says there's compelling evidence, though not yet proof, that less than an hour's exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack in someone with underlying cardiac disease. Since many people don't know if they're at risk, that means everyone should avoid smoky environments.
Dr. Lynn Goldman of Johns Hopkins, who led the IOM committee, says exposure to high levels of environmental tobacco smoke causes as much heart damage as smoking nine cigarettes a day.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have banned smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars.