Passive smoking or secondhand smoke (SHS) is the inhalation of fumes from someone else’s smoking of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar. Passive smokers are exposed to carcinogens and toxic substances similar to smokers. Passive smoking causes disease, disability or even death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke caused nearly 34,000 heart disease deaths each year during 2005–2009 among adult nonsmokers in the United States. The connection of passive smoking with coronary artery disease (CAD) is well established.
However, a study by UC Davis Health researchers has now shown that constant exposure to second-hand smoke also triggers changes to the heart’s electrical activity known as Cardiac Alternans. Cardiac Alternans forecast cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.
The research has shown that secondhand smoke exposure alters cells that regulate how the heart beats and can cause arrhythmias. This may affect individuals with or without CAD. The work hence expands what was previously known about the effects of tobacco smoke on cardiac function in nonsmokers, specifically, how secondhand tobacco smoke alters cells in the heart.
Although the use of Tobacco in the US is declining, smoking is still a leading cause of death. People are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke in restaurants, pubs, parking lots, and other public places.
On the other hand, smoking rates are increasing in the developing world. Hence, secondhand smoke is a worsening problem in many parts of the world.
The research highlights that the effects of secondhand smoke are worse than what was previously known. The study shows that exposure to secondhand smoke causes cellular changes in the heart associated with arrhythmias.