Premature births fall in Scotland after ban | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 07.03.2012
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Science

Premature births fall in Scotland after ban

Scottish researchers found that after the 2006 public smoking ban many health indicators improved. They have called for smoke-free legislation to be expanded around the globe.

Photo dated 16 November 2004 of cigerette lying stubbed out in an ashtray. The majority of young people believe smoking reduces the attractiveness of the opposite sex, a poll revealed, Tuesday December 7, 2004. EPA/STR UK AND IRELAND OUT +++(c) dpa - Report+++

Scotland has had a ban on public place smoking since 2006

Since Scotland introduced a public smoking ban in 2006, Scottish public health researchers now say that there has been a 10 percent drop in the country's premature birth rate.

The study, which was published in the journal PLoS Medicine on Tuesday, examined data from 700,000 women over 14 years, including time before the smoking ban. The researchers conclude that policies calling for smoke-free public spaces should be expanded.

“These findings suggest that the introduction of national, comprehensive smoke-free legislation in Scotland was associated with significant reductions in pre-term delivery and babies being born small for gestational age,” the authors wrote in the paper.

“These findings are plausible and add to the growing evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation, and support the adoption of such legislation in other countries that have yet to implement smoking bans.”

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Public health officials that it is better for children to have stronger anti-smoking laws

Drop in smokers and low birth weight children

The research team, which included public health scholars from the Centre for Population and Health Sciences at the University of Glasgow and Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, collected information about babies born pre-maturely between January 1, 1996 and December 31, 2009, as recorded by the Scottish Morbidity Record.

The government database keeps track of all women who give birth in Scottish hospitals, and notes any pregnancy complications.

The data show that after the ban, the number of Scottish mothers who smoked fell from 23.9 percent to 18.8 percent, and that there was a significant drop in low birth weight children as well.

Call to action

Officials in Scotland and the public health community across Europe have applauded these results and have argued for further bans on smoking in public spaces, as well as expanded studies in other European countries.

“It is very important to ensure that our children are protected from toxic tobacco fumes both before and after birth,” wrote Dr. Hans Gilljam, a public health professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, in an e-mail sent to DW. “Problems arising early may affect the rest of their lives.”

Others, including Robert West, the director of Tobacco Studies at the University College London, have called on more governments to look closely at these new findings.

"There is now such a rising tide of evidence that smoke-free legislation has a public health benefit that any government that does not introduce it, or like the Netherlands, actually reverses it, is failing in its most basic duty of care for its citizens," he wrote in an e-mail to DW.

Author: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Matt Hermann

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