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RCOG statement on new Lancet study exploring impact of smoke-free legislation on preterm birth and child health

News 28 March 2014

A new study published in The Lancet today suggests smoke-free legislation is associated with substantial reductions in preterm births and hospital attendance for asthma.

This first systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke-free legislation on child health, analysed 11 studies conducted in North America and Europe, involving more than 2.5 million births, and nearly 250 000 asthma exacerbations.

Results show that rates of both preterm births and hospital attendance for asthma were reduced by 10% within a year of smoke-free laws coming into effect, as well as a 5% decline in children being born very small for gestational age after the introduction of smoke-free laws.

Currently 16% of the world’s population is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 40% of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke.

Commenting on the study, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Ronnie Lamont said:

“This is an interesting study that provides further evidence that minimising access to smoke can have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health, in particular with regards to lowering the premature birth rate.

“Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to have adverse effects on fetal development and pregnant women need to be informed of the risks and should be offered advice and support to help them give up.

“We must also continue to increase public policy and education on the adverse effects of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, especially during pregnancy. It is important that healthcare professionals encourage women to lead a healthy lifestyle and the RCOG advocates a life-course approach for women, promoting prevention rather than intervention and placing the individual at the centre of their care throughout their life.

“This study adds to the existing evidence that smoking bans in enclosed public and work places have substantial benefits on both adult health outcomes and child and perinatal health outcomes and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists supports recommendations for further implementation of smoke-free environments.”

Ends

For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

To read the study 'Effect of smoke-free legislation on perinatal and child health: a systematic review and meta-analysis', click here.