A new study from Harvard shows that exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke can almost double a person's risk of heart attack,
Below are two press releases ASH sent out regarding the study -- the first before its official release, the second after:
New Study Showing Tobacco Smoke Causes Heart Attacks Is Likely To Have At Least Two Major Legal Impacts
A new study showing that secondhand tobacco smoke causes heart attacks as well as lung cancer in nonsmokers is likely to have several major legal impacts, says law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a national legal- action antismoking organization.
First, he predicts, it is likely to increase the already-growing pressure to prohibit smoking in public places and private work places. Already five states -- California, Utah, Vermont, Maryland, and the state of Washington -- have laws or regulations which prohibit smoking in virtually all workplaces and public places. In addition, a growing number of states, counties, and municipalities also restrict smoking in many of these same areas.
Indeed, says Banzhaf, the major change in the law over the past few years has been a move from statutes and regulations which simply required no-smoking sections to those which ban smoking entirely. This came about, he said, as legislators realized that secondhand tobacco smoke was a Group A carcinogen, and that even the small amounts which drifted into the no-smoking section could cause lung cancer in nonsmokers.
Since the number of people who die from heart attacks triggered by secondhand smoke is approximately ten times the number who are killed by lung cancer caused by smoke exposure, this new study is likely to increase the pressure for such bans, suggests Banzhaf.
Secondly, in cases where a victim is in a smoky room when he or she suffers from a heart attack, it will be much easier for a lawyers suing either the tobacco industry, or the manager of the place where smoking was permitted, to prove the element lawyers call "causation"; i.e., that it was the smoke rather than some other factor which caused the death.
Unlike lung cancer, which has a latency period of ten or more years, heart attacks can frequently be brought on by exposure to tobacco smoke which robs the nonsmokers of oxygen in his blood, substitutes carbon monoxide (a deadly poison), and constricts already clogged blood vessels.
Secondhand Smoke Study Can Multiply Tobacco Lawsuits and Make Them Much Easier For Plaintiffs to Prove Causation
A Harvard study showing that secondhand smoke can almost double a person's risk of a heart attack is likely to vastly increase the number of nonsmoker law suits, and also make them easier to win, says law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
The study estimated that the number of people dying from heart attacks brought on by secondhand tobacco each year could exceed 50,000, more than ten time the number estimated to die from lung cancers resulting from the same cause.
Thus, says Banzhaf, the number of potential plaintiffs is more than ten times as great. Moreover, he notes, the news reports of this study are likely to suggest to many nonsmokers who have suffered such heart attacks, and to the families of those who didn't survive them, that the cause may have been tobacco smoke.
This study will also make it easier, for two different reasons, for nonsmoking plaintiffs to prove their cases in suits either against the tobacco industry or against the owners and managers of public places which permit smoking.
The first is that, while exposure to tobacco smoke increases a nonsmoker's risk of contracting lung cancer by about 30%, the Harvard study shows that the increased risk of a heart attack is almost doubled. "This will make it far easier to prove the element lawyers call causation, that the smoke rather than some other factor caused the disease, according to the civil standard of proof by a preponderance of evidence.
Second, says Banzhaf, it is likely that many nonsmokers will suffer heart attacks while actually being exposed to tobacco smoke, in contrast to lung cancer cases where the disease may not manifest itself until years after the initial exposure. Thus it will be far easier for medical experts to conclude that smoke was in fact a cause of the heart attack, and for the jury to see the direct and immediate connection.
|ACTION ON SMOKING AND HEALTH (ASH)|
A National Legal-Action Antismoking Organization
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