We know that smoking cigarettes is bad for adults, but a 2014 intercontinental study demonstrates how beneficial public smoking bans are for children.
Nearly half of the world’s children are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Passive smoking is linked to premature births, birth defects, asthma, and lung infections. Studies also have suggested that being exposed to second hand smoke during childhood may have long-term health implications, contributing to the development of chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, in later life.
Laws that prohibit smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants, and workplaces, are proven to protect adults from the health threats associated with passive smoking. In the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws are affecting the health of children, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the University of Edinburgh, Maastricht University, and Hasselt University found that the introduction of new laws that ban smoking in public places in North America and Europe has been followed by a decrease in rates of premature births and hospital visits for asthma attacks in children. These findings were published in March 2014 in The Lancet.
Together, the researchers analyzed 11 studies conducted in North America and Europe that incorporated more than 2.5 million births and approximately 250,000 asthma-related hospital visits. They discovered that the overall impact on child health was very positive. Rates of both preterm birth and hospital admissions for asthma were reduced by 10 percent following the implementation of laws that prohibited smoking in public places.
“Only 16 percent of the world’s population is covered by smoke-free laws,” said Dr. Aziz Sheikh, senior author of the study and Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “In light of these findings, the many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should reconsider their positions on this important health policy question.”