Study links smoking bans to fewer pre-term births

LONDON Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:37pm EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Banning smoking in enclosed public places can lead to lower rates of preterm birth, according to Belgian researchers who say the findings point to health benefits of smoke-free laws even in very early life.

It is well known that smoking during pregnancy can stunt the growth of unborn babies and shorten gestation, and that second-hand smoke exposure can also effect births, but little was known about the impact of smoking bans on preterm birth rates.

So a team of researchers led by Tim Nawrot of Belgium's Hasselt University investigated trends in preterm births - before 37 weeks gestation - from 2002 to 2011 covering a period before, during and after the introduction of smoke-free laws.

They found the risk of preterm birth after the introduction of each phase of Belgium's smoking ban, which was implemented in three phases - in public places and most workplaces in January 2006, in restaurants in January 2007, and in bars serving food in January 2010.

No decreasing trend in preterm was evident in the years or months before the bans, the researchers said in their study in the British Medical Journal on Friday.

"Our study shows a consistent pattern of reduction in the risk of preterm delivery with successive population interventions to restrict smoking," the researchers wrote.

"It supports the notion that smoking bans have public health benefits even from early life."

Smoking causes lung cancer, often fatal, and other chronic respiratory diseases. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, the world's number one killers.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco already kills around 6 million people a year worldwide, including more than 600,000 non-smokers who die from exposure to second-hand smoke. By 2030, if current trends continue, it predicts tobacco could kill 8 million people a year.

Public health experts hope that as more and more countries in Europe and around the world adopt stricter legislation on smoking in public places, the health benefits will start to become evident fairly swiftly.

A study from England published last month found that the introduction of smoking bans there led to swift and dramatic falls in the number of children admitted to hospital suffering asthma attacks.

And research published in 2009 also found the ban on smoking in public places in England led to a swift and significant drop in the number of heart attacks, saving the national health service 8.4 million pounds ($13.1 million) in the first year.

The Belgian researchers analyzed 606,877 live, single-born babies delivered at between 24 and 44 weeks of gestation in Flanders from 2002 to 2011.

The results show a reduction in the risk of preterm births of 3.13 percent after January 2007, and a further reduction in the risk of 2.65 percent after January 2010.

($1 = 0.6433 British pounds)

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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Comments (2)
Pregnant women who smoke during pregnancy should be charged with child abuse. I really hate seeing it.”

In more rational times, before the anti-tobacco hysteria began in earnest, women who smoked continued to smoke and enjoy other normal pleasures of life without guilt during their pregnancies. Many even smoked during labour to help them relax and take the edge off their pain. If their doctors mentioned smoking at all, it would be to advise them to perhaps cut down if they were heavy smokers, something which most did intuitively because they didn’t “feel” like smoking as much.
But pity the poor smoker today who becomes pregnant, because she will be told that if she continues to smoke at all (or have any alcohol or caffeine) during her pregnancy, she is putting her developing fetus at high risk of death or disability.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Though there is considerable evidence showing that on average the babies of women who smoke during pregnancy weigh on average a few ounces less than babies of women who do not smoke and that the rate of low birthweight babies is somewhat higher for smokers, there is no credible evidence for the hyperbolic claims that the babies of smokers have a higher mobidity and mortality rate. Quite the contrary, the babies of women who smoke during pregnancy have a better survival rate ounce for ounce, a somewhat lower rate of congenital defects, a lower rate of Down’s syndrome, a lower rate of infant respiratory distress syndrome and a somewhat lower rate of childhood cancer than do the babies of non-smokers.

Dr. Richard L. Naeye, a leading obstetrical researcher who studied more than 58,000 pregnancies, states unequivocally:

“We recently found no significant association between maternal smoking and either stillbirths or neonatal deaths when information about the underlying disorders, obtained from placental examinations, was incorporated into the analyses. Similar analyses found no correlation between maternal smoking and preterm birth. The most frequent initiating causes of preterm birth, stillbirth, and neonatal death are acute chorioamnionitis, disorders that produce chronic low blood flow from the uterus to the placenta, and major congenital malformations. There is no credible evidence that cigarette smoking has a role in the genesis of any of these disorders.””

Feb 15, 2013 8:56am EST  --  Report as abuse
Pregnant women who smoke during pregnancy should be charged with child abuse. I really hate seeing it.”

In more rational times, before the anti-tobacco hysteria began in earnest, women who smoked continued to smoke and enjoy other normal pleasures of life without guilt during their pregnancies. Many even smoked during labour to help them relax and take the edge off their pain. If their doctors mentioned smoking at all, it would be to advise them to perhaps cut down if they were heavy smokers, something which most did intuitively because they didn’t “feel” like smoking as much.
But pity the poor smoker today who becomes pregnant, because she will be told that if she continues to smoke at all (or have any alcohol or caffeine) during her pregnancy, she is putting her developing fetus at high risk of death or disability.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Though there is considerable evidence showing that on average the babies of women who smoke during pregnancy weigh on average a few ounces less than babies of women who do not smoke and that the rate of low birthweight babies is somewhat higher for smokers, there is no credible evidence for the hyperbolic claims that the babies of smokers have a higher mobidity and mortality rate. Quite the contrary, the babies of women who smoke during pregnancy have a better survival rate ounce for ounce, a somewhat lower rate of congenital defects, a lower rate of Down’s syndrome, a lower rate of infant respiratory distress syndrome and a somewhat lower rate of childhood cancer than do the babies of non-smokers.

Dr. Richard L. Naeye, a leading obstetrical researcher who studied more than 58,000 pregnancies, states unequivocally:

“We recently found no significant association between maternal smoking and either stillbirths or neonatal deaths when information about the underlying disorders, obtained from placental examinations, was incorporated into the analyses. Similar analyses found no correlation between maternal smoking and preterm birth. The most frequent initiating causes of preterm birth, stillbirth, and neonatal death are acute chorioamnionitis, disorders that produce chronic low blood flow from the uterus to the placenta, and major congenital malformations. There is no credible evidence that cigarette smoking has a role in the genesis of any of these disorders.””

Feb 15, 2013 8:56am EST  --  Report as abuse
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