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FOR RELEASE: April 28, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Department Issues ALERT on Secondhand Smoke

Citing recent medical articles including a published warning from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Oklahoma State Department of Health is issuing an alert cautioning all persons with known coronary heart disease to avoid all indoor environments that permit smoking.

“We agree with the CDC and recommend to clinicians that all patients at increased risk for heart disease or with known heart disease should be advised to avoid places where smoking is allowed indoors,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

The CDC’s Associate Director of Science for its Office on Smoking and Health, Dr. Terry Pechacek, commented in the April issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), that the CDC had concluded from recent studies, that mounting medical evidence explains how even brief exposures to relatively small concentrations of secondhand smoke can cause unexpectedly large increases in the risk of an acute cardiovascular event. The CDC also recommends that the families of those at elevated risk be counseled not to smoke within the patient’s home or in a vehicle with the patient.

The latest study reports that the implementation of a comprehensive local clean indoor air ordinance in Helena, Montana, may have resulted in a rapid reduction in heart attacks. The study found hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) declined by about 40 percent during the 6 months the ordinance was in effect and rebounded after the ordinance was suspended.

“This study is important because it focuses attention on the large body of evidence that suggests that secondhand smoke exposure causes surprisingly large increases in acute cardiovascular risk, ” said Dr. Pechacek in a commentary entitled Acute Cardiovascular Risks of Secondhand Smoke Exposure.

According to Pechacek, research indicates that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at typical levels may incur more than one-third of the heart disease risk of someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day. Also, even short-term exposures - lasting as little as 30 minutes - may pose significant risks, especially in persons who already have or are at special risk of heart disease. These effects are quite different from those of secondhand smoke exposure on lung cancer, where the significant risk increases over years of exposure. The commentary reviews recent evidence on specific mechanisms in the body that may account for these findings.

“The public health implications of these findings are dramatic,” said Crutcher. “The impact of secondhand smoke exposure on heart disease risk appears to be substantial and rapid, but rapidly reversible through the establishment of smokefree environments. This study further reinforces the importance of all Oklahoma workplaces and public places to immediately implement smokefree policies, even if not yet required by Oklahoma state law,” said Crutcher.

The Oklahoma Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act became effective for most workplaces and public places in the state on September 1, 2003, but will not apply to Oklahoma restaurants until March 1, 2006. Exempted entirely from the Act were stand-alone bars and bingo halls.

Secondhand tobacco smoke contains at least 250 chemicals that are known to be toxic or carcinogenic, and it is responsible for an estimated 53,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. To obtain a copy of the research article or the commentary, visit BMJ’s web site at http://bmj.bmjjournals.com.

For more information about secondhand smoke visit www.breatheeasyok.com or the CDC’s web site at www.cdc.gov/tobacco .

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