News Release 

Avoid smoky environments to protect your heart

Secondhand smoke linked to high blood pressure

European Society of Cardiology

Milan, Italy - 3 May 2019: If a room or car is smoky, stay away until it has cleared. That's the main message of research presented today at EuroHeartCare 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). (1)

"Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke regardless of whether the smoker is still in the room," said study author Professor Byung Jin Kim, of Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea. "Our study in non-smokers shows that the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) is higher with longer duration of passive smoking - but even the lowest amounts are dangerous."

Passive smoking at home or work was linked with a 13% increased risk of hypertension. Living with a smoker after age 20 was associated with a 15% greater risk. Exposure to passive smoking for ten years or more was related to a 17% increased risk of hypertension. Men and women were equally affected.

Participants with hypertension were significantly more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work (27.9%) than those with normal blood pressure (22.6%). Hypertension was significantly more common in people exposed to passive smoke at home or work (7.2%) compared to no exposure (5.5%).

High blood pressure is the leading global cause of premature death, accounting for almost ten million deaths in 2015, and those affected are advised to quit smoking.(2) Previous research has suggested a link between passive smoking and hypertension in non-smokers. But most studies were small, restricted to women, and used self-reported questionnaires in which respondents typically over-report never-smoking.

This is the first large study to assess the association between secondhand smoke and hypertension in never-smokers verified by urinary levels of cotinine, the principal metabolite of nicotine. It included 131,739 never-smokers, one-third men, and an average age of 35 years.

"The results suggest that it is necessary to keep completely away from secondhand smoke, not just reduce exposure, to protect against hypertension," said Professor Kim.

"While efforts have been made around the world to minimise the dangers of passive smoking by expanding no smoking areas in public places, our study shows that more than one in five never-smokers are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Stricter smoking bans are needed, together with more help for smokers to kick the habit. Knowing that family members suffer should be extra motivation for smokers to quit," he said.

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Authors: ESC Press Office
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Email: press@escardio.org

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Notes to editor

The hashtag for EuroHeartCare 2019 is #euroheartcare.

Sources of funding: None.

Disclosures: None.

References and notes

(1) The abstract 'Association between secondhand smoke exposure and hypertension in 131,739 Korean self-reported never-smokers verified by cotinine' will be presented during Moderated poster session - Public health and cardiac rehabilitation on Friday 3 May at 10:00 to 11:30 CEST in the Moderated Poster Area.

(2) 2018 ESC/ESH Guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension. Eur Heart J. 2018;39:3021-3104. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehy339.

About the Association of Cardiovascular Nursing & Allied Professions

The mission of the Association of Cardiovascular Nursing & Allied Professions (ACNAP) is to support nurses and allied health professionals throughout Europe to deliver the best possible care to patients with cardiovascular disease and their families.

About EuroHeartCare

EuroHeartCare is the annual Congress of the Association of Cardiovascular Nursing & Allied Professions (ACNAP) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

Information for journalists attending EuroHeartCare 2019

EuroHeartCare 2019 will be held 2 to 4 May at the Milano Convention Centre (MiCo) in Milan, Italy. Explore the scientific programme.

  • To register on-site please bring a valid press card or appropriate letter of assignment with proof of three recent published articles (cardiology or health-related, or referring to a previous ESC Event).

  • Press registration is not available to industry or its public relations representatives, event management, marketing or communications representatives.

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