New brief warns tobacco responsible for 20% of all deaths from coronary heart disease

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Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease, according to a new brief released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization, World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia ahead of World Heart Day, marked on September 29.

This equates to one in five of all deaths from heart disease, warn the report’s authors, who urge all tobacco users to quit and avoid a heart attack, stressing that smokers  are more likely to experience an acute cardiovascular event at a younger age than non-smokers.

The brief said just a few cigarettes a day, occasional smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of heart disease. But if tobacco users take immediate action and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50% after one year of not smoking.

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“Given the current level of evidence on tobacco and cardiovascular health and the health benefits of quitting smoking, failing to offer cessation services to patients with heart disease could be considered clinical malpractice or negligence. Cardiology societies should train their members in smoking cessation, as well as to promote and even drive tobacco control advocacy efforts,” said Dr Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the World Heart Federation Tobacco Expert Group.

The brief also shows that smokeless tobacco is responsible for around 200 000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year. E-cigarettes also raise blood pressure increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, high blood pressure and heart disease increase the risk of severe COVID-19. A recent WHO survey found that among people dying of COVID-19 in Italy, 67% had high blood pressure and in Spain, 43% of people who developed COVID-19 were living with heart disease.

“Governments have a responsibility to protect the health of their people and help reverse the tobacco epidemic. Making our communities smoke-free reduces the number of tobacco-related hospital admissions, which is more important than ever in the context of the current pandemic,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Unit Lead of the WHO No Tobacco Unit.

Tobacco control is a key element for reducing heart disease. Governments can help tobacco users quit by increasing tax on tobacco products, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and offering services to help people give up tobacco.

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