Study: passive smoking can speed Artery hardening

CHICAGO (AP) — Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke both significantly hasten hardening of the arteries, and the damage may be permanent, a new study suggests.
An estimated 30,000 to 60,000 annual deaths in the United States can be attributed to secondhand smoking, wrote the authors, led by epidemiologist George Howard at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Their study appears in today’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
The American Heart Association, which advocates banning smoking in all public places, said this was the first study to link passive smoking with narrowing in the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain. Carotid-artery narrowing “indicates that other blood vessels are similarly affected, including ones in the heart muscle,” the association said in a news release.
Tom Lauria, a spokesman for The Tobacco Institute, which is funded by the tobacco industry, said advocates there had not yet evaluated the study. But he noted: “The majority of studies do not show any increased risk for nonsmokers. We consider the science to be inconclusive.”
Among past smokers — who had previously smoked an average of a pack daily for 25 years — a 25 percent increase in progression was found
Among non-smokers who reported exposure to secondhand smoke for an average of 18 to 20 hours weekly, there was a 20 percent increase in the progression of the condition when compared with people without such exposure.
The authors also found that some former smokers faced the same degree of arterial narrowing even 20 years after they’d quit.