OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure (at least 30 minutes a day) and the risk of developing acute coronary syndromes (ACS). DESIGN AND SETTING: The CARDIO2000 is a case-control study which was conducted in Greece from 2000 to 2001. Cases included 847 individuals with a first event of ACS and 1078 cardiovascular disease-free controls. Cases and controls were frequency matched on age (within three years of age), sex, and region. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: ACS was defined as a diagnosis of first acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina. Main independent variable: Exposure to ETS was measured by self report as follows: after the second day of hospitalisation for the cases, and at the entry for the controls, participants were asked whether they were currently exposed to tobacco smoke from other people (home and/or work) for more than 30 minutes a day. The responses were categorised into three levels: no exposure, occasional exposure (< 3 times per week), and regular exposure. In addition participants were asked how many years they had been exposed. Because these were self reported assessments and prone to bias, the results were compared to reports obtained from subjects' relatives or friends, using the Kendal's tau coefficient that showed high agreement. RESULTS: 731 (86%) of the patients and 605 (56%) of the controls reported current exposure of 30 minutes per day or more to ETS. Among current non-smokers, cases were 47% more likely to report regular exposure to ETS (odds ratio (OR) 1.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.26 to 1.80) compared to controls. Exposure to ETS at work was associated with a greater risk of ACS compared to home exposure (+97% v +33%). The risk of ACS was also raised in active smokers (OR 2.83, 95% CI 2.07 to 3.31) regularly exposed to ETS. CONCLUSIONS: This study supports the hypothesis that exposure to ETS increases the risk of developing ACS. The consistency of these findings with the existing totality of evidence presented in the literature supports the role of ETS in the aetiology of ACS.