Tobacco Breaks Hearts

Every year, on May 31, The World Health Organization (WHO) holds World No Tobacco Day. This day highlights the health and other risks associated with tobacco use and advocates for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

Every year, in March, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation releases County Health Rankings showing Chautauqua County as having among the worst health ranking, and, not coincidentally, among the highest smoking rates in all of New York State.

The focus of World No Tobacco Day 2018 is “Tobacco and heart disease.” The purpose of the campaign is to increase public awareness on the link between tobacco and heart and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including stroke, which combined are the world’s leading causes of death.

Tobacco use is an important risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Most people are well-aware of the link between tobacco use and lung cancer, but knowledge among large sections of the public that tobacco is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease remains low. This is despite the known harms of tobacco to heart health, and the availability of solutions to reduce related death and disease,

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide, and tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12 percent of all heart disease deaths. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.

In other words, tobacco breaks hearts. Not only the literally broken hearts of the smoker and those exposed to secondhand smoke, but it breaks the hearts of family and friends who lose loved ones to tobacco-related disease.

The global tobacco epidemic kills more than 7 million people each year, of which close to 900 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. More than two million of those tobacco related deaths are from cardiovascular diseases. Nearly 80 percent of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.

Locally, our lowest income residents are hit the hardest by tobacco addiction and as a result, cardiovascular diseases. One of the most effective ways to reduce cardiovascular diseases in our County is to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked, and to prevent our young people from ever starting to smoke.

Chautauqua County has high rates of both heart attack and stroke, but an estimated 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team(CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: