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Healthy Hearts are Tobacco-Free 


L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is early stages of heart disease for smokers

That’s how the song goes, right? February, home to Valentine’s Day, is commonly referred to as the month of love. February is also American Heart Month, an annual observance of the risk of heart disease and stroke. Although tobacco use is most associated with its negative effects on the lungs, tobacco use also damages the heart.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—including heart disease and stroke—is the number one killer of women and men in the United States and in Ohio. According to the American Heart Association, CVD is responsible for about one of every three deaths in America – which is equivalent to nearly one death every 40 seconds. Similarly, CVD accounts for more than a quarter of all resident deaths in Ohio, with heart disease killing 26,383 Ohioans and stroke claiming the lives of an additional 5,744 in 2012.

CVD is also a leading cause of disability, preventing millions of Americans from working and enjoying family activities. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that about 85.6 million Americans are living with some form of CVD or the after-effects of stroke. 

Together, CVD-related death and disability bring enormous financial burdens as well. According to the AHA, the annual costs of CVD in the U.S. totals more than $316.6 billion, including direct costs (hospital services, physicians, medications, home health care, etc.) and indirect costs (lost productivity and premature deaths). In Ohio, heart disease has an estimated cost of about $7.6 billion per year and stroke nearly $2.7 billion per year in medical expenses and absenteeism from the workplace (2010 estimates).

Along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking is one of the key risk factors for CVD and is associated with about one out of every three CVD-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When chemicals from tobacco enter the body they increase plaque build-up in arteries. When the plaque hardens, it narrows the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen to the heart and other vital organs. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute warns that this can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, or even death.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop both coronary heart disease and stroke than nonsmokers. Data from the 2014 Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey show that Ohioans who are current or former smokers have significantly higher rates of stroke, heart attack, and angina/coronary heart disease. For example, Ohioans who were current or former smokers had more than two and a half times the reported prevalence of heart attack diagnosis (8.1 percent) as compared to Ohioans who never smoked (2.9 percent).

Secondhand smoke can also cause heart disease and stroke in nonsmokers. The CDC estimates that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and their risk for stroke by 20 to 30 percent. When combined with other risk factors, such as unhealthy blood cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and obesity, the risk for heart disease increases. According to Cleveland Clinic, just five minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke stiffens the aorta (part of the heart) as much as smoking a cigarette. When exposed to it for 20 to 30 minutes, secondhand smoke causes excess blood clotting, as well as increases the build-up of fat deposits in blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Two hours of exposure to secondhand smoke increases the chance of irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and can trigger a fatal cardiac event or heart attack.

Love with your whole (healthy) heart this month. If you know someone who is interested in quitting tobacco, help them. Encourage them to call the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or use the free online tobacco cessation tools at QuitLogix ( To learn more about the ODH Tobacco Program, visit our website or like us on Facebook.



American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2016 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association.

Ohio Department of Health. The Impact of Chronic Disease in Ohio: 2015.

U.S. Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General.

Ohio Department of Health. Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), 2014. Internal analyses by the Ohio Department of Health Tobacco Program, February 2016.

Additional Resources

Heart disease and smoking:


Secondhand Smoke: 


Page created: 2/1/2018