Harvard Heart Letter

Banishing secondhand smoke

Tobacco smoke from other folks' cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can be bad for your heart.

In the catalog of cardiac villains, smoking is still a leading cause of heart disease even though fewer people are smoking these days. That's a testament to the hazard of this habit. It is also because its effects don't stop with the smoker — they extend to anyone who breathes air polluted by smoke from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe.

Secondhand smoke isn't an innocuous byproduct of smoking. This mixture of freshly burnt tobacco and exhaled smoke contains hundreds of chemicals, including formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, ammonia, arsenic, and lead. Some are known to cause cancer. Others are highly toxic to cells all over the body.

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