Smoking bans have reduced the number of children attending hospital with severe asthma exacerbations and respiratory tract infections, a study published in
Lancet Public Health
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands identified 41 studies (24 from North America, 16 from Europe and one from China) which assessed the impact of the introduction of World Health Organization tobacco control policies on perinatal and child health.
Data from five studies included in the meta-analysis looked at rates of hospital attendance for asthma exacerbations and found that they fell by 9.83%. Two studies showed that hospital attendance rates for all respiratory tract infections fell by 3.45%.
Three studies assessed admissions for lower respiratory tract infections, and their combined data revealed that they fell by 18.48%.
Ten studies looked at the effects of smoke-free legislation on pre-term births and found that there had been a 3.77% fall in rates.
Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, said: “Our evaluation provides compelling evidence of the considerable impact of tobacco control policies on child health. This work should spur governments to take action to implement tried and tested policies — strongly advocated by the World Health Organization — to reduce second-hand smoke exposure and improve a range of important health outcomes in infants and children.”
In an accompanying editorial John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, said that one of the arguments made against comprehensive smoke-free legislation was that prohibiting smoking in pubs, bars and restaurants would displace smoking into the home, and hence increase the exposure of children.
“In fact, in the UK the opposite happened: exposure of both children and non-smoking adults fell after smoke-free legislation was introduced,” he said.