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Smokefree workplaces reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 46%: new study

Posted 26 Jun, 2018

Quit Victoria and Heart Foundation today welcomed the results of a new study showing smokefree policies have significant long-term benefits for cardiovascular health among smokers and non-smokers alike.

Published in Circulation, the US study followed more than 3,000 people for 20 years, comparing cardiovascular events in people living and working in areas with smokefree policies and legislation to those who did not. 

The study found conclusively that people protected from secondhand smoke in workplaces, bars and restaurants had fewer heart attacks and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease. 

For the first time, physical health factors that increase risk of cardiovascular disease, such as weight, were able to be discounted – reinforcing the benefits of smokefree spaces for heart health.

The strongest benefits were found for those who had smokefree polices in their workplace, with authors finding their risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly reduced as a result, in some cases as much as 46%.

Heart Foundation Victoria CEO Kellie-Ann Jolly said secondhand smoke is toxic and there’s no safe level of exposure for heart health. 

“Smoking is as bad for your heart as it is for your lungs and the risk of cardiovascular disease starts with just one cigarette per day,” Ms Jolly said.

“Smoking clogs the arteries causing the heart to work harder to pump oxygen around the body.

“As one in seven Victorians still smoke, not only are they doing harm to themselves, but this study demonstrates secondhand smoke significantly affects the people around them – in their workplace, in their home and in outdoor areas.”

Last week Quit Victoria revealed that smoking costs the Victorian economy $1.1 billion in workforce costs, with smoking breaks, absenteeism and tobacco-related deaths all driving down productivity.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said the US study and latest Victorian figures highlight the importance of having robust smokefree policies across workplaces, bars and restaurants.

“This new study adds to the weight of evidence in support of smokefree policies, which protect people from the harms of tobacco,” Dr White said.

“We’ve come a long way here in Victoria, with smokefree legislation covering indoor areas, including cars carrying children, and in many outdoor spaces where people congregate. We are almost 12 months in to legislation protecting people from secondhand smoke in outdoor dining areas.  

“However, patrons of outdoor drinking areas are still exposed to secondhand smoke, and – most concerningly – staff in outdoor drinking areas and the high-roller room at the casino are exposed to many hours working in harmful secondhand smoke.”

Dr White said there were also gaps in legislation that failed to protect people in outdoor workplaces and those living in shared or public housing.

“We need comprehensive protection from secondhand smoke to make sure we all enjoy our right to clean air and healthy environments and, importantly, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr White said.

For detailed information and support to become smokefree, businesses can sign up to the Achievement Program at achievementprogram.health.vic.gov.au/workplaces.

The Achievement Program helps workplaces create healthy environments and promote healthy behaviours in a variety of priority areas including smoking.  

Quit Victoria also has a range of resources for employers and businesses wanting to implement no-smoking policies. For more info, visit the resources section of the Quit Victoria website www.quit.org.au 

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation.


Media release

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