Last month was American Heart Month and a perfect time for prioritizing heart health – for you and the people around you. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Georgia – accounting for about one in every three deaths each year. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes all diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including heart disease, congestive heart failure, hypertension, and stroke. One of the many ways to protect heart health and reduce one’s risk for cardiovascular disease is to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke is more than just a pesky nuisance that seeps into your hair and clothes. It has severe health consequences for adults and children who are exposed to the toxins emitted from smoking and vaping products. The variety of products that emit secondhand smoke has evolved over the years and is no longer limited to traditional tobacco-based, combustible cigarettes. New and emerging smoking-related products include electronic nicotine delivery or vaping devices, hookah, non-combustible cigarettes (heated, not burned), and smoked or vaped forms of cannabis.
Studies show that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of exposure to secondhand smoke can be dangerous to the heart and blood vessels. Breathing secondhand smoke causes blood cells to become “sticky,” which can lead to blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Secondhand smoke is also a trigger for asthma attacks in adults and children. Now, more than ever, protecting our friends and neighbors from secondhand smoke exposure can help to save lives and improve overall health.
In Georgia, more than 75% of the population is at risk for exposure to secondhand smoke as the state’s smoke-free indoor air law has loopholes that allow for smoking in many public places and workplaces, including bars, restaurants, hotels, and other indoor environments. In fact, in a 2021 survey conducted by Drug Free Fayette, 67% of the 4,271 survey respondents say they still experience secondhand smoke. Several cities in Georgia have made the responsible decision to protect their citizens and visitors from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure with comprehensive smoke-free policies that eliminate secondhand smoke in workplaces and public places. Residents and visitors can move about the cities’ indoor environments without their health being compromised by secondhand smoke exposure.
Importantly, our efforts support anyone’s right to smoke. And if and when anyone is seeking to quit smoking, we are happy to provide cessation resources to help and support them.
As more communities throughout the state prioritize health and wellness, smoke-free indoor air is becoming the new normal and a critical component for a model healthy and vibrant community.
Michael Mumper and Onjewel Smith are members of the Breathe Easy Fayette Alliance.
To learn more about Breathe Easy Fayette, and to support smoke-free environments, visit www.drugfreefayette.org/breathe-easy-fayette.html.