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New research highlights the immediate and deadly effects of cigarette smoke

Posted 21 Feb, 2021

Quit Victoria and its partners today launched a new public education campaign highlighting the immediate and deadly effects of cigarette smoke on the heart - and the link between smoking and Australia’s single biggest killer, heart disease.

The campaign, which will air on free-to-air TV from Sunday night, explains how within minutes of inhaling cigarette smoke, the blood becomes sticky, constricting the artery walls and making it harder to pump blood around the body. Sticky blood increases the chance of blood clots forming in the artery wall which can lead to a catastrophic heart attack.

A recent Australian study showed that cardiovascular disease was almost three times higher for current smokers than those that never smoked, while new data out of the US showed that the earlier people stop smoking the lower their risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. 

Dr Sarah White, director of Quit, said regardless of age, stopping smoking is the single best thing any person who smokes can do to improve their health. 

“Quitting is possible. The best way to stop smoking is with support from Quitline (13 7848) and with stop smoking medications, like the nicotine patch and gum. Call the Quitline today or speak to your GP or visit,” said Dr White. “It is never too late to stop smoking, and we hope this campaign will really get this message across.”

Ms Kellie-Ann Jolly, Victorian chief executive officer (CEO) of the Heart Foundation said it’s vital for people who smoke to know exactly how cigarette smoke affects the heart.

“Most people know that smoking increases the risk of developing various cancers, but relatively few people know how cigarette smoke can clot the blood, which can lead to a heart attack even for people in their 30s and 40s,” said Ms Jolly.

“There is no safe level of smoking. Even smoking only one cigarette a day or smoking occasionally significantly increases your chance of heart attack or developing a cardiovascular condition that decreases your quality of life,” she said.

Director of Cardiology at Western Health and Heart Foundation spokesperson, Associate Professor Nicholas Cox said increasing numbers of younger people are presenting to him after suffering life-threatening events like heart attack, chest pain and coronary heart disease.

“Almost all of the young patients I see who have had a heart attack, smoke cigarettes. The fact is, there is no ‘small’ heart attack. If you are lucky enough to survive a heart attack, you need to stop smoking. Every time you inhale cigarette smoke, there’s an acute and immediate impact on your heart,” said Associate Professor Cox.

“Despite advances in medical care, we still see too many young patients with catastrophic heart attacks. We need to do more to help young people understand the immediate risk that smoking poses to their health, and for patients, that it increases their risks of a second heart attack. 

“I urge all people who smoke to seek support to help them to quit. Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your health.”

Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO of VicHealth, a major funder of Quit, said public health campaigns like this are vital for supporting more Victorians to stop smoking. 

“One in ten Victorians are daily smokers, which equates to at least a half million Victorians who have a much greater risk of dying from heart disease or stroke,” Dr Demaio said.

“Quitting smoking reduces the risk of heart disease dramatically. One year after quitting smoking the risk of a heart attack or stroke is halved. This public health campaign reminds us just how bad smoking is for our health and how important it is to quit.”

For more quitting advice, visit or call the Quitline on 13 7848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday. Quitline is a culturally inclusive telephone service for all, including the LGBTIQ+ community. Aboriginal Quitline counsellors are also available.

For more on the Sticky Blood campaign, visit

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