Benefit of smoking ban hailed as number of premature births falls

Smoking bans have been linked to a reduction in the number of babies born prematurely, researchers reveal today.

Pregnant women have been subjected to less second-hand smoke since the law banning smoking in public places came into force.

Now researchers have shown the benefits of the ban, saying it reduced the risk of pre-term delivery which leave babies at risk of major health problems.

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Researchers examined the effect of smoking bans in Belgium on the number of premature babies. Smoking bans in the country were implemented in three phases – in public places and most workplaces in 2006, in restaurants in 
2007, and in bars serving food in 2010.

The births of some 600,000 babies born in Flanders between 2002 to 2011 were analysed.

The researchers found reductions in the risk of pre-term birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy after the introduction of each phase of the smoking ban, according to the paper published on bmj.com.

After the ban came into force in 2007 the risk reduced by 3.1 per cent and there was a further reduction of 2.7 per cent after 2010, researchers said.

“Our study shows a consistent pattern of reduction in the risk of pre-term delivery with successive population interventions to restrict smoking,” the authors wrote.

“It supports the notion that smoking bans have public health benefits even from early life.

“These results underscore the public health benefit of smoking ban policies.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “There is no doubt, because it is supported by a large body of evidence, of the negative impact of smoking on the pregnant woman and her developing child and of the effects of second-hand smoke.

“This research is encouraging but we should also be aware that many pregnant women are still exposed to second-hand smoke in domestic situations.

“We would hope that smokers would be considerate and refrain from smoking when pregnant women are in their immediate vicinity.

“It is also important that when the baby is born it spends as much time as possible – ideally all the time – in a smoke-free environment.”