U.S. Institute of Medicine Report: Smoke-Free Laws Prevent Heart Attacks

All Countries Should Enact 100 Percent Smoke-Free Laws

Oct. 15 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A landmark report released today by the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) provides powerful new evidence that governments worldwide have no excuse for failing to enact comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws.

The report concludes smoke-free laws reduce the number of heart attacks and save lives. The report also confirms that there is conclusive scientific evidence that secondhand smoke causes heart disease, including heart attacks, and finds there is compelling evidence that even relatively brief exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to a heart attack.

“These powerful conclusions, reached by one of the most prestigious scientific authorities in the world, send a loud and clear message to governments worldwide," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It’s time to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air by enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws that include all workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars."

This report should spur countries around the world to enact comprehensive smoke-free laws in compliance with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the international tobacco control treaty ratified by 167 countries. The FCTC legally obligates nations to take effective action to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.

Standards adopted unanimously by member countries make it clear that only 100 percent smoke-free laws, that apply to all workplaces and public places, meet the treaty’s requirements.

The smoke-free standards also state that other approaches, such as separate smoking sections and rooms or ventilation systems, are not effective as there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and smoke-free laws protect health without harming business.

Additionally, the standards establish that all people, including workers, should be protected from secondhand smoke.

"There should be no exceptions or loopholes," said Myers. “No one should have to put themselves at risk of a heart attack, lung cancer or the other serious diseases caused by secondhand smoke in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out."

A growing number of countries, regions and cities around the world have adopted smoke-free laws. These include Bermuda, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Djibouti, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

Most Canadian provinces/territories and Australian states/territories have also enacted such laws, as have 27 U.S. states and numerous Argentine provinces. Cities including Mexico City, Abuja, and Sao Paulo have also adopted smoke-free laws.

Even before the new IOM report, there was already conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke causes death and disease, while smoke-free laws protect health and save lives.

As the U.S. Surgeon General stated in issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, “The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults."

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. Secondhand smoke is a proven cause of heart disease, lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and low birth weight.

The IOM’s conclusions that smoke-free laws prevent heart attacks and that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to a heart attack add significantly to the Surgeon General’s report.

The IOM report was requested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the wake of a growing number of studies in smoke-free localities, states and countries that found reductions in heart attack rates after smoke-free laws are implemented.

The IOM committee reviewed such studies from the United States, Canada, Scotland and Italy examining the relationship between secondhand smoke and cardiovascular disease.