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Information provided by:
Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaiʻi
1500 South Beretania, Suite 309
Honolulu, HI 96817
Tel: 808-946-6851
Fax: 808-946-6197

Secondhand Smoke: A Little is Dangerous

Are patrons at risk, along with restaurant and bar employees? It is sometimes argued that while long term exposure to secondhand smoke boosts the risk of cancer, short term exposure in a restaurant or a bar does no real damage. This is false. Breathing secondhand smoke for just twenty minutes has substantial, advers e effects on the heart, blood, and blood vessels.

5 minutes exposure = smoking a cigarette...
Five minutes exposure to secondhand smoke stiffens the aorta (the main artery carrying blood from the heart to the body) as much as smoking a cigarette. More arterial stiffness makes the heart work harder to pump blood.

20 minutes exposure = smoker’s blood platelets...

Twenty minutes of breathing secondhand smoke at levels similar to those measured in bars activates blood platelets involved in the clotting process as much as it does in pack-a-day smokers.
These activated platelets increase the chances of getting a heart attack or stroke. They also can damage the artery lining in a way that leads to cholesterol buildup, narrowing the arteries, in turn causing coronary heart disease, chest pain, and heart at tacks. In the short term, activated platelets are more likely to form a blood clot (thrombus) in the blood stream. If this clot blocks an artery in the heart, it causes a heart attack. In the brain, it causes a stroke.

30 minutes exposure = smoker’s arteries... Thirty minutes of secondhand smoke compromises a non-smoker’s coronary arteries to the same extent as in smokers. Blood vessels (coronary arteries) that supply the heart are exquisitely sensitive to secondhand smoke toxins, as the chart below shows. Other studies show similar effects on non-coronary arteries.
And lingering cholesterol effects...
Thirty minutes of breathing secondhand smoke compromises the ability of your blood to manage LDL ("bad") cholesterol by depressing anti-oxidant defenses — and the effect persists for several hours after exposure ends. Th ese changes boost the risk of building up the arterial fat deposits that lead to heart attacks and strokes.

120 minutes = greater risk of irregular heartbeat...

Breathing secondhand smoke also can speed up your heart rate while, at the same time, reducing "heart rate variability" — small, random variations in heartbeat. While the mechanism is not yet fully understood, reductions in heart rate varia bility signal problems in the nervous system’s control of the heart, increasing the chance of an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) that can itself be fatal or trigger a heart attack.

Summary of brief exposure risks...

All of these effects not only increase the long term risks of developing heart disease, but also increase the immediate risk of heart attack. And if someone suffers a heart attack while breathing secondhand smoke, it will likely be worse.

Secondhand smoke also causes wheezing, asthma attacks and other respiratory symptoms, and burning eyes, nose and throat. These effects, if caused by any industrial pollutant, would warrant strong corrective action.

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