Passive smoking risk higher than thought - MAM position
Passive smoking risk higher than thought
The Times 1st July 2004
Passive smoking could raise the risk of heart disease among non-smokers by as much as 60 per cent, as opposed to the previously thought 25 - 30 per cent, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
The study shows that non-smokers exposed to the highest level of environmental smoke had close to the same risk of heart disease as those who smoked as many as nine cigarettes daily.
Asked for his comments, the general secretary of the Medical Association of Malta, Martin Balzan, said the study confirmed previous data that showed passive smoking increased the risk for coronary artery disease by up to 60 per cent. The risk, he said, seems to be higher in "heavy passive smokers" when compared with light passive smokers.
"MAM reiterates its position that it is the government's responsibility to make regulations that protect non-smokers effectively from the harmful effect of passive smoking," he said.
Carried out over 20 years among more than 4,700 British men, the study measured the effects of second-hand smoke coming from exposure at the workplace, bars, restaurants and living with a smoker. The study was based on the levels of cotinine - a nicotine by-product - found in the blood.
The paper, by researchers from London's St George's and Royal Free hospitals, concludes that high overall exposure to passive smoking seems to be associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular heart disease than living with a smoker.
"The effects of passive smoking may have been underestimated in earlier studies," it said, adding that these results add to the weight of evidence suggesting that exposure to passive smoking is a "public hazard" which should be minimised.
These findings give greater weight to the Maltese government's decision to introduce a smoking ban in public places. The ban came into force last April except in leisure establishments, which were given more time to come in line with the regulations.
Last week the Malta Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, which has opposed a ban in bars and restaurants, filed a judicial letter calling on the Health Minister to amend the regulations.