A study in this week’s PLoS Medicine , shows that since Scotland has introduced a national, comprehensive smoke-free legislation, the numbers of preterm deliveries and small for dates (gestational age) infants has dropped substantially.

The findings, by research leader Jill Pell from the University of Glasgow, come in support of the growing evidence that a smoke-free legislation provides a wide spectrum of health benefits and also supports other countries that have not yet implemented a smoking ban in adopting the legislation.

“There is growing evidence of the potential for tobacco control legislation to have a positive impact on health,” say the researchers.

As part of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill on 26 March 2006, Scotland became the first country in the UK to prohibit smoking in public places.

The researchers gathered data on preterm delivery and small for dates for all infants born between January 1996 and December 2009 for their study, and discovered a decrease from 25.4% in the number of smoking mothers, before the ban to 18.8%, after the legislation became effective.

They also observed a substantial decrease of over 10% in the total of preterm deliveries, as well as a 5% drop in the number of small born infants born and a decrease of almost 8% in those who were very small. The finding was significant, as it also demonstrated that these substantial reductions were observed in both smoking and non-smoking mothers, which highlights the effects of second-hand smoke on people’s health.

Even though survival rates of preterm deliveries has improved, the researchers say that preterm infants have a risk of developing long-term health problems, stating:

“Any intervention that can reduce the risk of preterm delivery has the potential to produce important public health benefits.”

In a concluding statement the researchers say:

“The results of our study add to the growing evidence of the wide ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation and lend support to the adoption of such legislation in countries where it does not currently exist.”

Written by Petra Rattue