Eliminating the threat of secondhand smoke would prevent more than 228,000 new cases of heart disease and 119,000 heart-related deaths over the next 25 years, according to a new study.

Using a model to estimate the impact of eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke on heart disease, researchers found stopping secondhand smoke would quickly reduce the number of heart-related deaths. This effect would increase over time, adding up to hundreds of thousands of preventable heart attacks and other problems.

National surveys suggest that 4 percent to 17 percent of the nonsmoking population (depending on age and sex) are exposed to secondhand smoke at home, work, or at play.

Estimating the Impact of Secondhand Smoke

Researchers say current estimates show that average daily exposure to secondhand smoke among exposed individuals is equivalent to smoking one cigarette per day; that conveys about one-third of the additional risk of heart disease associated with smoking a pack a day.

Based on those estimates, researchers calculated the effects of eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke in 2005 over the next 25 years in the U.S.

Their results show that:

--New cases of heart disease would be reduced by 9,300 in the first year, adding up to 228,300 cases prevented by 2030.

--The number of heart attacks reported would be reduced by 8,100 in the first year and increase to 13,500 per year by 2030, resulting in a total reduction of 292,500 heart attacks over the 25-year period.

--Total heart disease-related deaths would drop by 2,200 in the first year after eliminating secondhand smoke and rise to 6,400 prevented deaths per year by 2030.

The results of the study were presented this week at an American Heart Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: American Heart Association 7th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, Washington, D.C., May 7-9, 2006. News release, American Heart Association.