Babies Born Healthier in Smoke-Free Land

Public smoking ban in Scotland followed by decrease in preemies born

(RxWiki News) Smoking is associated with a number of complications for babies in the womb, including early deliveries and underweight babies. Scotland's smoking ban made in dent in both of these.

When Scotland passed a public smoking ban in March of 2006, evidence from a new study reveals that the ban might have played a part in the subsequent drop in preterm deliveries and babies born small for their gestational age.

"Don't smoke while pregnant!"

Daniel Mackay, of the Centre for Population and Health Sciences at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and colleagues investigated the rates of early babies and small babies following a country-wide smoking pan in public places.

The researchers compared data on preterm deliveries before and after the smoking ban, across the time period from January 1996 to December 2009. The smoking ban began in March of 2006.

Mackay's team looked at 716,941 births, not including multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.) or stillborn children.

They saw smoking in expectant mothers drop by 26 percent, which occurred alongside a decrease of more than 10 percent in early deliveries. While about a quarter of Scottish pregnant women smoked before the law was passed, 19 percent smoked afterward.

Likewise, births of babies with low birthweight (below the 10th percentile) went down nearly 5 percent and the arrival of babies in the smallest 3 percent for their gestational age was 8 percent lower.

The decreases in small newborns began about three months before the ban was implemented, which the researchers believe occurred in anticipation of the legislation's implementation.

The decreases in early deliveries and babies with low birth-weights occurred both among women who smoked and those who didn't, which the researchers attributed to the decrease in second-hand smoke because of the smoking bans.

"These findings suggest that the introduction of national, comprehensive smoke-free legislation in Scotland was associated with significant reductions in preterm delivery and babies being born small for gestational age," the authors write.

"The results of our study add to the growing evidence of the wide ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation and lend support to the adoption of such legislation in countries where it does not currently exist," they conclude.

The study appears in this week's PLoS Medicine. The research was funded by a grant from a Chief Scientist Office in Scotland.

One author was associated with the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Reseach & Policy and with Health Scotland. All other authors declared no competing interests.

Review Date: 
March 6, 2012