Managing tobacco use: the neglected cardiovascular disease risk factor

Eur Heart J. 2013 Nov;34(42):3259-67. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/eht352. Epub 2013 Sep 7.


Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the leading avoidable cause of death worldwide. Exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) increases the risk of CVD among non-smokers. Smoking cessation benefits all smokers, regardless of age or amount smoked. The excess risk of CVD is rapidly reversible, and stopping smoking after a myocardial infarction reduces an individual's risk of CVD mortality by 36% over 2 years. Smoking cessation is a key component of primary and secondary CVD prevention strategies, but tobacco use often receives less attention from cardiologists than other risk factors, despite the availability of proven treatments that improve smoking cessation rates. Both psychosocial counselling and pharmacotherapy are effective methods to help smokers quit, but they are most effective when used together. The first-line medications licensed to aid smoking cessation, nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion and varenicline, are effective in and appropriate for patients with CVD. An evidence-based approach for physicians is to routinely ask all patients about smoking status and SHS exposure, advise all smokers to quit and all patients to adopt smoke-free policies for their home and car, and offer all smokers in the office or hospital brief counselling, smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, and referral to local programmes where psychosocial support can be sustained in person or by telephone. Like other chronic diseases, tobacco use requires a long-term management strategy. It deserves to be managed as intensively as other CVD risk factors.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Cigarette smoking; Coronary heart disease; Prevention; Secondhand smoke exposure; Tobacco use; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzazepines / therapeutic use
  • Bupropion / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Counseling / methods
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Physician's Role
  • Quinoxalines / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / mortality
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Varenicline


  • Benzazepines
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Quinoxalines
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Bupropion
  • Varenicline