Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products increases heart risks, but that doesn't stop some Americans with a history of heart problems, new research finds.
Many continue to smoke after having a heart attack, heart failure or stroke even though they are aware of the risk.
Nearly 30% of adults with a history of these heart problems smoked when a five-year study began in 2013. Fewer were smoking four years later, but 20% were still using tobacco products at the end of the review.
That was true even though 96% of participants said they were aware that smoking could cause heart disease, according to findings published June 9 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
"In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death, resulting in more than 365,000 deaths in 2018," said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, co-director of the American Heart Association's Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science, which provided support for the study.
She noted that research clearly shows that quitting smoking can help prevent heart disease, even among people who have had it before.
"The findings of this new study are disturbing, although perhaps not surprising," Robertson said in a journal news release. "These results indicate that critical public policies and interventions are needed to address this preventable, leading cause of death and disability not just in the U.S. but around the world."
For the study, the researchers reviewed survey responses from a large nationwide health study to compare rates of tobacco use over time.
Participants included more than 2,600 U.S. adults with a self-reported history of heart attack, heart failure, stroke or other heart disease. Twenty-nine percent reported using tobacco in 2013 to 2014. Researchers said this percentage translates to roughly 6 million Americans.
Cigarettes were the most common form of tobacco used, at 83%, followed by cigars (24%) and e-cigarettes (23%). Many survey respondents said they used more than one type of tobacco product. Use of electronic cigarettes without accompanying cigarette use was uncommon.
Eight percent of participants said they used smokeless tobacco products. Smaller percentages used other less-common products such as pipes, hookahs or dissolvable tobacco.
About 40% said they believed vaping was safer than smoking traditional combustible cigarettes. Those who felt that way were more likely to use e-cigarettes either alone or along with traditional cigarettes.
Participation in formal smoking cessation programs dwindled from 10% of respondents during the survey's second wave to about 2% by its end.
"Our findings support the need for a stronger commitment from a multidisciplinary team, including the primary care professional, social worker, psychologist and cardiologist, to provide smoking-cessation therapies and counseling to people with cardiovascular disease," said study author Dr. Cristian Zamora, an internal medicine resident at Jacobi Medical Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
"Health care reforms and public health policies should improve the availability of tobacco-cessation programs and tools for high-risk populations," Zamora said in the release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heart disease.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, news release, June 9, 2021