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RCOG statement on new BMJ study looking at link between smoking bans and preterm birth

News 15 February 2013

Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium have found a link between smoking bans and successive reductions in preterm birth.

The study, published today in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), looks at the incidence of preterm delivery (<37 weeks gestation) in the Belgium population after implementation of a three-phase legislation to ban smoking (in public places and most workplaces in January 2006, in restaurants in January 2007, and in bars serving food in January 2010).

A total of 606,877 live singleton births were analysed between 2002 and 2011. Data showed a significant reduction in the risk of preterm births after the bans were introduced, with a 3.13% reduced risk by January 2007 and a further reduction in of 2.65% after January 2010.

The data collected pre-legislation showed no decreasing trends in preterm birth in the years leading up to the bans.

Patrick O’Brien, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) spokesperson, said:

“Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to have adverse effects on fetal development but this research also highlights the possible risks associated with second-hand smoke.

“This is a large study and provides important information for women, their families and healthcare providers when considering a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy.

“These findings reinforce the continued need for increased public policy and education on the adverse effects of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, especially during pregnancy.

“The smoking ban in enclosed public and work places in 2007 in the UK was a positive step and the RCOG supports these initiatives.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email

For more information or to read the full BMJ study online click here