State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers Who Smoke to Quit in Observance of American Heart Month

Highlights Friday as "Go Red for Women Day" to Raise Awareness of Heart Disease Risks in Women

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 3, 2010) – In observance of American Heart Month, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today urged New Yorkers who smoke to quit and immediately reduce their risks for heart disease and heart-related deaths.

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke are well-established causes of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

"If you smoke, there is no better time to quit," said Commissioner Daines. "Quitting smoking is one the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, the No.1 killer in New York State. Quitting smoking leads to almost immediate improvements in heart health. When smokers quit, their heart rate and blood pressure begin dropping to a more normal level within 20 minutes and the risk of heart attack decreases after 24 hours."

Commissioner Daines also urged New Yorkers to participate in "Go Red for Women Day" on Friday, Feb. 5, an American Heart Association observance focused on empowering women to reduce their risk for heart disease.

"Too many women are unaware that heart disease is their No.1 killer," said Dr. Daines. "More women die of heart disease than the next five causes of death combined, including cancer. "But studies show that only one in five women believe heart disease is her greatest health threat."

"Go Red for Women Day" focuses on increasing Americans' awareness about heart disease in women and measures they can take to reduce their risk, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating healthy foods.

Annual health care costs related to treating cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and strokes, total $32.6 billion in New York State.

Active smoking is a major cause of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke is also a major risk factor, increasing the risk of heart attack by nearly 30 percent.

"Exposure to secondhand smoke is a preventable public health hazard associated with an estimated 35,000 deaths a year nationally from coronary heart disease in nonsmokers," Dr. Daines said. "The large body of evidence of the health effects of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke has been the impetus for New York to enact strong smoking bans and continue to increase taxes on cigarettes. Experience has demonstrated a strong link between increased cost of cigarettes and reduced consumption, and that is why Governor David A. Paterson is proposing a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax."

In 2009, the Institute of Medicine reported that smoking bans reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart disease associated with exposure to secondhand smoke. The report supports the evidence that nonsmokers who breathe secondhand smoke are at increased risk for heart problems and that even relatively brief exposures can cause a heart attack.

The report cites a study that found that New York's comprehensive smoking bans under the State's Clean Indoor Air Act resulted in declines in hospital admissions for heart attacks. In 2004 alone, there were nearly 4,000 fewer hospital admissions for heart attacks, reflecting direct health care cost savings of $56 million.

"The evidence is clear. Smoking causes heart disease, breathing in secondhand smoke causes heart disease, and New York's smoking ban has decreased the number of hospitalizations for heart attacks," said Jeffrey Willett, Ph.D., Director of the Health Department's Tobacco Control Program. "During American Heart Month, New Yorkers who smoke will greatly reduce their risk of heart disease by stopping smoking."

New Yorkers who want to quit are urged to call the New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS or 1-866-697-8487. The Quitline provides free coaching, quit plans, tips and information. Free nicotine medications, including patches, are also available to most smokers who enroll in Quitline services. Information about quitting smoking is also available on the Quitline web site at www.nysmokefree.com and on the State Health Department web site at www.nyhealth.gov .

To learn more about "Go Red For Women Day" and ways women can reduce their risk of heart disease, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org.