December 5, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

One minute of secondhand smoke impairs functioning of arteries

We (and others) have shown that as little as 30 minutes of breathing secondhand smoke impairs the ability of arteries to dilate (get bigger) in response to increased demands for blood flow.  This effect  occurs because secondhand smoke exposure turns off an enzyme called nittric oxide synthase in the artery walls that releases nitric oxide which, in turn causes the artery to relax and dilate.  (Stimulating nitric oxide synthase is how Viagra works to increase blood flow to the penis to cause an erection; secondhand smoke is like anti-Viagra..)  This impairment of arterial function plays in important role in development of heart disease and in mediating the response to a heart attack.

The question has repeatedly come up of just how fast this effect can happen.

My colleague Matt Springer has developed an exposure chamber in which rats can be exposed to secondhand smoke in a controlled way to measure its effects on arteries.  His group (which incldes me) just published a paper in Nicotine and Tobacco Research  showing that as little as 1 minute of secondhand smoke exposure at about the level of a smoky restaurant or bar measurably reduces the ability of arteries to dilate.

This information adds to the case that the cardiovascular system is exquisitely sensitive to something in tobacco smoke.

The full paper is available here.

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