Study links passive smoking with coronary problems

A ground-breaking study by researchers at Harvard University has found that regular exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke will almost double a person's risk of having a heart attack.

The study, which tracked the lives of 32,000 non-smoking women over 10 years, appears to go much further than any previously published in establishing a dramatic causal link between coronary ailments and passive smoking. In the same week that the British government pledged to ban tobacco advertising and sports sponsorship, the report is almost certain to harden attitudes of industrialised governments towards the tobacco industry.

It could also radically improve the chances of legal challenges pending in the United States to the cigarette manufacturers, where exposure to second-hand smoke is a central issue. For the cigarette giants, which include British American Tobacco, the findings could not have come at a worse moment.

Published in the American medical journal, Circulation, the report said that women who were regularly exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work were 91 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than those who were not. Women who were only occasionally exposed to second-hand smoke faced a 58 per cent great risk of an attack. The implication is that "there may be up to 50,000 Americans dying of heart attacks from passive smoke each year," commented one of the report's authors, Dr Ichiro Kawachi, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. He added that he was "becoming more and more convinced of the causal association", between passive smoke and heart disease.

By contrast, the report suggests that the risk posed by passive smoke for the development of lung cancer is much less significant. Annually, Americans dying from cancer because of second-hand smoke may be only 3,000 to 4,000.

The study is so significant, because until now earlier studies had only shown a 20-30 per cent increase in risk from heart disease. This allowed sceptics to challenge the notion that passive smoking was dangerous.

The women, aged 36 to 61 were selected from a group of hospital nurses first identified in 1976. In 1982, the researchers began tracking 32,000 of the nurses, all of whom said they were non-smokers, had no prior history of heart or cancer problems and who were all exposed regularly to passive smoke.

Exposure to second-hand smoke is believed to have various physiological effects, including lowering levels of certain beneficial cholesterols, reducing oxygen supply, damaging arteries and raising the risk of blood- clotting. On the egal front, the report may be especially important for a huge class-action suit that is due to go to trial in Florida next month.

The case, in which the defendant is Philip Morris, promises to bring together some 60,000 current and former flight attendants who are seeking damages for the alleged damage done to them to exposure to smoke in aeroplane cabins.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all