A marriage between a smoker and a non-smoker can be a dangerous affair of the heart.
A study published Wednesday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found that people who had never smoked but were married to smokers had about a 20 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than non-smoking couples.
The finding supports the conclusions of 14 previous studies linking heart disease and secondhand smoke, the study’s authors said.
“The bottom line is that smokers should cease smoking for their own good and for the good of those about them,” said Dr. Clark Heath, a co-author and vice president of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society.
Researchers analyzed data gathered by the society during a cancer prevention study. The tobacco industry obtained the same data several years ago and concluded that secondhand smoke does not promote heart disease, but the researchers said that study was flawed.
The tobacco industry’s consultants “emphasized the results for ‘any’ spousal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, which dilutes the effects among current smokers by including former smokers,” the authors said.
The consultants also did not consider other data, such as current self-reported exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and whether it agreed with spousal reports of current smoking, the authors said.
The cancer society looked again at the data of 479,680 single and married non-smokers, some of whom had spouses who smoked.
The subject group’s sheer size also will help combat criticism that previous studies were too small to be statistically important, said Stanton Glantz, a cardiology professor at the University of California at San Francisco who did not take part in the study. “This is a tremendous step forward,” he said.
Volunteers in the study filled in questionnaires requesting such information as race, medication use, smoking history and alcohol intake.