In 2006, Scotland implemented a nationwide ban on smoking in public places. Now, researchers from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Health and Wellbeing have compared data on preterm delivery rates and birth weights from before and after the ban. The results seems to bear out an overall improvement in both since smoking was banned.
According the study results, published in PLoS Medicine journal, the researchers used information from the Scottish Morbidity Record, a national database, to compare the outcomes of over 700,000 women who were discharged from Scottish Maternity Hospitals between 1996 and 2009. After the smoking ban, overall preterm deliveries fell 10%. There was also a 5% decrease in the number of infants born in the lowest 10% of birth weight for their gestational age and gender, and an 8% decrease of infants who were in the lowest 3% for weight.
The implications are clear: a ban on smoking has a positive effect on the health of pregnancies. The most encouraging part of the study is that the same decreases were found in women who had never smoked, so it wasn't just a improvement for woman who were themselves tabacco users.
Since this is just one study, and was based on retrospective data, more research will be needed to confirm the findings. We already know, of course, that smoking has a negative effect on all people, including pregnant women and their babies. What's encouraging is that here we see an overall benefit for the population, including non-smokers, when everyone is exposed to less tobacco smoke.
Preterm delivery and low-birth weight are leading causes of infant death, and anything we can do to reduce the incidence of those complications will inevitably lead to fewer parents suffering through the loss of a child.
Photo © Karol Stróż