Preterm births and cases of children attending hospital with asthma have fallen dramatically since laws banning smoking in public places and workplaces were introduced in Europe and North America.
A study, published in The Lancet, analysed the effect that smoke-free legislation has had on children’s health.
Researchers collated data from 11 studies carried out in North America and Europe, involving more than 2.5 million births and nearly 250,000 asthma exacerbations. The studies showed that preterm births and hospital admittance for asthma had fallen by 10% within 12 months of smoke-free laws coming into force.
Comprehensive smoke-free laws only cover 16% of the world’s population, with 40% of children worldwide regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.
Most studies have been focussed around the impact of smoking bans on adults, however more than a quarter of all deaths and over half of all healthy years of life lost are due to children being exposed to second-hand smoke.
“Our study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health”
Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, analysed published and unpublished studies between 1975 and 2013 that studied the impact of public smoking restrictions on the health of children aged 12 or under.
“Our research found significant reductions in preterm birth and severe asthma attacks in childhood, as well as a 5% decline in children being born very small for gestational age after the introduction of smoke-free laws”, said study author Dr Jasper Been.
“Together with the known health benefits in adults, our study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health.
“There is a pressing need to support partners and family members to stop smoking”
Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This shows how important a smoke free environment is for pregnant women, babies and children.
“There is a pressing need to support partners and family members to stop smoking and if we encourage a smoke free home, there can be further improvements. We recognise it is hard to stop smoking but if the family does it together, they can provide support to each other.”
- Read the full study paper in The Lancet