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Question:

Can exposure to second-hand smoke cause heart disease and other illnesses?

I am a student at Clarion University of Pa, collecting data for a research project. And I am writing to find out what effects secondhand smoke can have on a non-smoker's heart. My question is "Can a non-smoker develop heart disease or any other type of illness if the individual is involuntarily exposed on a regular base for a period of 12 months or longer inside a poorly ventilated resident or commercial building?" Thank you for taking the time to answer my question and I am very eager to hear back from you with your response. Sincerely.  

submitted by Cortney from Clarion, Pennsylvania on 6/17/2012

Answer:

Michael J. Mihalick, MDby Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Michael J. Mihalick, MD  

Dear Cortney: One can theorize that inhaling small amounts of second hand smoke could be harmful. This would depend upon a lot of variables such as the person's genetic susceptibility to cancer, the concentration, and duration of the exposure, let alone the type of tobacco smoked. For example, pipe and cigar smoke burns at lower temperatures and contains different (possibly lower) amounts of tar. I don't want you to think that I'm in favor of smoking, but the data on second hand smoke and cancer are far from definitive and unfortunately have become politically charged. Other environmental factors in the smoking environment may be responsible as well. It is difficult to control for these variables. To my knowledge, the definitive study has not been done...and may not be possible. As far as heart disease is concerned, the carbon monoxide produced by smoking may be more harmful, especially acutely, but this risk is confined to the smoker. To summarize, while I think it prudent to minimize exposure to second- hand smoke, going to the extremes to avoid it is probably not necessary. Sincerely.  

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Updated June 2012
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