Press Releases

1997 Releases

Exposure to Passive Smoke Associated with Increased Heart Disease Risk

For immediate release: May 19, 1997 

Boston, MA--Nonsmoking women, regularly exposed to cigarette smoke at home or work, have twice the risk of developing coronary heart disease of women not exposed. These findings, by Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School researchers, are reported in the May 20 Circulation, a publication of the American Heart Association. The researchers also found that the increase in risk associated with exposure at home is substantially the same as risk associated with exposure at work.

This report is based on data from the Nurses' Health Study, a study of 121,700 female registered nurses 30 to 55 years of age, who have provided information to researchers on their diet, lifestyle and health since 1976. A total of 32,046 of these women were nonsmokers and, consequently, information about their exposure to cigarette smoke from other people, at home and in the workplace was the focus of this work. The researchers controlled for conditions that might contribute to heart disease, such as hypertension, diet and exercise.

"To date, few studies had adequately explored whether heart disease or death resulting from heart attack could be related to exposure to passive smoke. The strong association we have found suggests that as many as 30,000 to 60,000 deaths each year from coronary heart disease could be attributable to passive smoke," comments Ichiro Kawachi, MD, PhD, assistant professor of health and social behavior at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author on the study. "We were startled by the strength of these findings. From the standpoint of alleviating risk, the good news is that certainly smoke free building policies would go a long way to changing this picture."

Dr. Frank Speizer, Harvard Medical School, directs the Nurses' Health Study under the auspices of the Channing Laboratory, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu