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Health Information

Heart Health Month: Impacts of Smoking on Heart Health

February is Heart Health Month, but did you know that smoking and secondhand smoke are contributors to heart health issues?

Why does this happen?

  • When you breathe, your lungs take in oxygen and deliver it to your heart, which then pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body.
  • However, when you breath smoke, chemicals from the smoke contaminate your blood. These chemicals can damage your heart and blood vessels.1

That’s why it is important for those who smoke to quit, and to create safe areas where secondhand smoke can be avoided. Let’s take a moment to learn more about these connections:

Impacts of Cigarette Smoking

Smoking cigarettes can cause1

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysms (a bulge or weakness in an artery)
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Cardiovascular disease accounts for about 800,000 U.S. death every year. Of those, nearly 20%, or 160,000, were due to cigarette smoking.1 Heart disease was the second leading cause of death in Alaska in 2020 with 915 deaths.2

Take a listen to Brian H.’s story about smoking and heart disease courtesy of the CDC’s Tips from a Former Smoker campaign. There are two videos, each about 3 minutes long, that you can watch here and here. His full story can be found here in addition to many other individuals’ stories.

Impacts of Secondhand Cigarette Smoke3

Secondhand smoke exposure can lead to

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Damage to the lining of blood vessels and causing your blood platelets to become stickier
    • These changes can cause a deadly heart attack
    • This can happen even with a brief exposure to secondhand smoke
  • People who already have heart disease are at high risk of adverse effects from secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke exposure causes about 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease in the US among nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke causes over 8,000 deaths from stroke annually.



Please note: more research is needed to understand the full impact marijuana has on the cardiovascular system to determine if marijuana use leads to higher risk of death. It is hard to separate the effects of marijuana chemicals on the cardiovascular system from those caused by other chemicals and irritants that are present in the smoke.

Some studies and reports suggest that:

  • Marijuana can make the heart beat faster and increase blood pressure immediately after use
  • It could increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular disease
  • Marijuana smoke delivers many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke
    • These substances are harmful to the lung and cardiovascular disease


Long term impacts of “vaping” are still being studied. Current evidence suggests impacts on brain development, lung health, and unintended injuries. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has known negative health effects. Some studies also suggest that individuals who smoke e-cigarettes also smoke cigarettes. This means the health effects of cigarettes, such as those listed above, also can impact that person.5


What can you do about this?

  • If you’re ready to quit tobacco, you can
    • Call the Alaska State Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit their website
    • Visit the American Lung Association’s “I Want to Quit” Page
    • Talk with your healthcare provider
  • If you want to support someone in their efforts to quit, visit the American Lung Association “Help Someone Quit” Page
  • Support Smokefree Environments and include protections from e-cigarette vapor and marijuana smoke in addition to cigarette smoke in all policies
  • Multiunit housing residents and owners/managers can contact the American Lung Association in Alaska for free assistance on smokefree housing policies
    • Email us at
    • Call 907-931-5470
  • Check out the American Heart Association or the CDC for more info on heart health
    • The American Heart Association offers a support network for individuals and caregivers dealing with various heart diseases



  1. How Smoking Affects Heart Health | FDA
  2. Vital Statistics Report (
  3. Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke | CDC
  4. Heart Health | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC
  5. About Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes) | Smoking & Tobacco Use | CDC


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