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Infant mortality rate falls following public smoking ban

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The number of stillbirths and babies dying shortly after birth in England has dropped since the smoking ban was introduced.

A study, led by the University of Edinburgh, found smoke-free legislation was associated with an immediate 7.8% reduction in stillbirth and a 7.6% reduction in neonatal deaths.

“It remains the case, that exposure to cigarette smoke is detrimental to the health and well-being of pregnant women and their unborn babies”

Janet Fyle

Researchers looked at information on more than ten million births in England between 1995 and 2011.

They estimated that 991 stillbirths and 430 newborn deaths were prevented in the first four years after the law to prohibit smoking in public places was introduced.

Furthermore, over five thousand fewer babies were born with a low birth weight of less than two and a half kilograms.

The study findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said was pleased the ban on smoking in public places had led a positive impact on the stillbirth and neonatal death rates.

“The evidence is clear, in this, the first study to show that smoke free legislation is working to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death rates,” she said.

But she added: “We must remain vigilant in ensuring that these hard won protections for children, such as smoking bans are not encroached upon by stealth through the introduction of smoking areas on terraces of restaurants and bars used by the public including pregnant women.

“It remains the case, that exposure to cigarette smoke is detrimental to health of the pregnant woman and her unborn child,” she said.

“Exposure to smoke can be lethal for babies in the womb and for new borns”

Francine Bates

Francine Bates, chief executive of The Lullaby Trust and co-chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, said: “We hugely welcome the positive impact of the smoking ban on perinatal and infant mortality. Exposure to smoke can be lethal for babies in the womb and for newborns.

“The UK has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Western Europe and keeping babies smoke free is an essential plank of our strategy to drive this down over the next 10 years,” he said.

“We look forward to the introduction of plain packaging and a ban on smoking in cars with children in October – new measures which will also help to prevent the deaths of many more babies in the future,” he added.

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