Virtually everyone knows that smoking cigarettes for an extended period of time can lead to a variety of diseases affecting the heart, liver and lungs of both men and women alike. To this end, smoking is a major contributor for strokes, heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and a variety of cancers including cancers of the larynx and mouth, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer. In addition, smoking has also been proven to affect unborn children as preterm deliveries are much more frequent in women that regularly smoke.
In 2006, smoking was banned in all public places in Scotland. Since then, the health of both pregnant women and their babies has improved dramatically, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Glasgow.
The Scottish Smoking Ban researchers view the conclusions of their study as evidence that tobacco control legislation can not only have a very real impact on the health and wellness of the general population but, the overall health care costs of the general population as well.
Scottish Study Concludes: 10% Fewer Preterm Deliveries
In order to conduct their study, researchers from the University of Glasgow analyzed data regarding all babies born from January of 1996 through December of 2009 in Scottish maternity hospitals. The data came courtesy of the Scottish Morbidity Record.
After analyzing the data, the researchers discovered a 10% decline in preterm deliveries, or births before 37 weeks of gestation, from 2006 through 2009. They also learned that 5% fewer babies were born too small for their age during that same period.
The researchers said that both of these reductions occurred in all women regardless of their personal smoking habits, indicating that a reduction in second-hand smoke provides real health benefits even if you smoke.
The Impact of the Scottish Smoking Ban on Smoking Habits
The smoking ban imposed by Scottish legislature had a measurable impact on the overall number of women who smoked around the time of giving birth. While roughly 25.4% of mothers smoked prior to the ban, only 18.8% smoked afterwords.
“Irrespective of legislation, many women quit smoking when pregnant because of concerns regarding their infant’s health, and there has been increased awareness of the need to protect children from exposure to tobacco smoke,” said Dr. Jill Pell, the lead researcher behind the study.
The researchers didn’t discuss what type of impact the smoking ban had on the overall population’s smoking habits. In theory, additional declines in overall smoking rates would lead to further reductions in the number of pregnancy complications experienced by mothers and their babies.
It’s well-known that preterm babies are more likely to develop health problems in the long term, leading the researchers to conclude that “any intervention” with the potential to curb the rate of pregnancy complications is worthwhile in terms of public health.
Scottish Smoking Ban: The Bottom Line
A recent study indicates that a ban on public smoking in Scotland led to a 10% decline in preterm deliveries, in addition to reductions in other pregnancy complications. The study shows that overall public health can be improved when second-hand smoke is reduced.
The full text of the study can be viewed in PLoS Medicine.