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Global ignorance of tobacco’s harm to cardiovascular health costing lives

April 26, 2012 Comments off

Global ignorance of tobacco’s harm to cardiovascular health costing lives
Source: World Heart Federation

A report released today at the World Heart Federation World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai reveals significant gaps in public awareness regarding the cardiovascular risks of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. The report, entitled “Cardiovascular harms from tobacco use and secondhand smoke”, was commissioned by the World Heart Federation and written by the International Tobacco Control Project (ITC Project), in collaboration with the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization.

According to the report, half of all Chinese smokers and one-third of Indian and Vietnamese smokers are unaware that smoking causes heart disease. Across a wide range of countries, including India, Uruguay, South Korea and Poland, around half of all smokers – and over 70 per cent of all Chinese smokers – do not know that smoking causes stroke. Awareness of the risk of secondhand smoke is even lower. In Vietnam, nearly 90 per cent of smokers and non-smokers are unaware that secondhand smoke causes heart disease. In China, 57 per cent of smokers and non-smokers are unaware of the link. Even in countries with well-developed health systems and tobacco control regulation – such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia – between a third and a half of smokers do not know that secondhand smoke can damage cardiovascular health.

Professor Geoffrey T. Fong at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and Chief Principal Investigator of the ITC Project, commented, “This report shows a broad correlation between poor knowledge of the risks of tobacco use and high levels of smoking prevalence. To break this link and reduce the deadly toll of tobacco, more needs to be done to increase awareness of the specific health harms. Our research shows that the risks of tobacco use to lung health are very widely accepted. But we need to attain the same level of knowledge and awareness that tobacco use and secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Health warning labels are known to be an effective method for educating the public on the health harms of tobacco products. A number of countries have introduced warnings about the increased risk of heart disease or heart attack, but no country has yet implemented a label to warn people that secondhand smoke causes heart disease. Increasing knowledge of these specific health risks will help encourage smokers to quit and help non-smokers protect themselves, so raising awareness is an important step in reducing people’s exposure to tobacco smoke.”

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s leading cause of death, killing 17.3 million people every year. Eighty per cent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, which are increasingly being targeted by the tobacco industry. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure causes about one-tenth of global deaths from CVD. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Smokeless tobacco products have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of heart disease by 25–30 per cent and more than 87 per cent of worldwide adult deaths caused by secondhand smoke are attributable to CVD.

+ Full Report (PDF)

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