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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2706

In the light of the findings of this study, countries should reconsider their positions on this important health policy – smoke-free legislation

By Manjari Peiris

Large drops in rates of preterm births and children attending hospital for asthma have been noticed with the introduction of laws banning smoking in public places and workplaces in North America and Europe, reveals the first systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke free legislation of child health.

Currently only 16 percent of the world's population is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. To date, most studies have looked at the impact of smoking bans on adult outcomes, but children account for more than a quarter of all deaths and over half of all healthy years of life lost due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

The analysis of 11 studies done in North America and Europe, involving more than 2.5 million births, and nearly 250 000 asthma exacerbations, showed that rates of both preterm births and hospital attendance for asthma were reduced by 10 percent within a year of smoke-free laws coming into effect.

Dr. Jasper Been from the Maastricht University medical Centre, in the Netherlands, and colleagues stated that the research found significant reductions in preterm birth and severe asthma attacks in childhood as well as 5 percent decline in children being born very small for gestational age after the introduction of smoke-free laws.

He further stated that together with the known health benefits in adults, the study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for peri-natal and child health and provides strong support for WHO recommendations to create smoke-free public environments on a national level.

The study co-author Professor Aziz Sheikh of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, USA and the University of Edinburgh, UK, states that the research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks. “The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question.” He added.

The researchers conclude that the cigarette industry, its allies and the groups they sponsor have long used claims of economic harm, particularly to restaurants, bars and casinos to oppose smoke-free laws, despite consistent evidence to the contrary. By contrast the rapid economic benefits that smoke-free laws and other tobacco control policies bring in terms of reduced medical costs are real. Rarely can such a simple intervention improve health and reduce medical costs so swiftly and substantially.

Source of Information: Tobacco Control - BMJ

- Asian Tribune -

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