Tobacco breaks hearts – choose health, not tobacco
Smokers are 2–4 times more likely than non-smokers to suffer coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular stroke, and even adults exposed to other people’s smoke have a 25–30% raised risk. On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day 2018, WHO is highlighting what can be done to reduce the risks to heart health posed by tobacco and how much difference it makes immediately if smokers choose to quit tobacco.
“We are finding that although the public generally realizes that smoking is harmful, they are often unaware of its key link with heart disease and stroke. Tobacco is contributing to the increased incidence of chronic diseases and their fatalities and has a devastating impact on patients and their families,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Giving up smoking reduces the risk of these diseases irrespective of how long you have been smoking and, for example, 10 years after quitting, your risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.”
The effects of giving up smoking can be seen almost immediately:
- Within 20 minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal.
- Within 2–12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases.
- A year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is about half that of a smoker's.
- Between 5 and 15 years after quitting, the stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
- Fifteen years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a person who never smoked.
Measures to stop smoking reduce cardiovascular diseases
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and rheumatic heart disease. They kill 17.7 million people globally every year, which is a third of all deaths. Across the WHO European Region, where 28% of adults smoke, 46% of the 4.2 million smokers who died in 2015, died from CVDs.
“Increasing numbers of people are giving up smoking and are more aware of the risks,” said Dr Jakab. “At the same time, governments are conscious that reducing the use of tobacco has a positive effect not only on the health of the population, but on the economics and health services of the country – a healthy country is a prosperous one.”
The policy measures which are increasingly being adopted by countries of the European Region, in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, are proven to make a major difference to CVDs. The measures include increasing excise taxes and prices on tobacco products; introducing plain/standardized packaging and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packaging; enforcing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; eliminating exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke in all indoor workplaces, public places and public transport; and running effective mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms of smoking/tobacco use and second-hand smoke.