It’s common to think of tobacco smoke as a threat to lung health, but the reality is, the effect tobacco has on cardiovascular health is just as dangerous. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide and tobacco is the second leading cause.

tobacco use doesn’t just affect the person who smokes, it affects those around them through secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke is a combination of a burning cigarette and exhaled smoke. This smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of them being toxic including 70 known to cause cancer. There is no risk-free level of exposure; since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, 2.5 million adults have died from breathing secondhand smoke. Close to 900,000 non-smokers die from breathing secondhand smoke each year.

The belief that e-cigarettes are safe  is not true. The secondhand aerosol emitted from e-cigarettes contains nicotine, ultrafine particle concentration higher than in conventional cigarettes and low levels of toxins known to cause cancer. These particles can constrict arteries triggering a heart attack.

The best way our community can prevent stroke and heart disease caused by secondhand smoke is by creating Tobacco Free Environments.

In 2005, the Montana legislature passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, which protects Montana citizens from secondhand smoke in public places. Smoke free laws like this have shown to decrease heart attack instances by 19%. Tobacco free environments, like the Clean Indoor Air Act are a proven method to help adults quit tobacco use, and to prevent youth from starting.

What else can be done to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol?

  • Landlords can pass Smokefree Housing policies in multi-unit housing.
  • Business owners can hang signs asking people who smoke to move a minimum of 30 feet from windows and entrances so drifting smoke does not enter the building.
  • Communities can expand tobacco free environments to places such as parks, downtown shopping areas, or other public places. Communities can strengthen protections of clean indoor air laws by including e-cigarettes in these policies.

If you’re interested in helping to keep our air clean and smokefree, we can help! The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program provides free signage and model policy language. We can also provide resources and other educational materials for landlords, tenants, and the public.  Contact jen.macfarlane@gallatin.mt.gov. For help quitting, visit www.quitnowmontana.com or call 1(800)QUIT-NOW.

Today is World No Tobacco Day, a time to make strides in ending tobacco use. Please join us.