Restrictions on smoking lead to improvements for pregnant women, reducing rates of premature births, researchers say today. A study finds a close link between three phases of smoking bans in Belgium and falls in the number of premature babies. Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers say each ban was linked to a reduction of about 3% in early births.
Midwife leaders said the findings highlighted the need to encourage families not to smoke in the presence of pregnant women. Belgium banned smoking in public places and workplaces in 2006, in restaurants in 2007 and in bars that serve food in 2010. The researchers studied more than 600,000 babies in the Flanders region over a ten year period, identifying births that took place before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Researcher Tim Nawrot, of Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgium, writes: “Our study shows a consistent pattern of reduction in the risk of preterm delivery with successive population interventions to restrict smoking. It supports the notion that smoking bans have public health benefits even from early life.”
Louise Silverton, of the Royal College of Midwives, said there was a “large body of evidence” about the harmful effects of smoke on pregnant women. She said: “This research is encouraging but we should also be aware that many pregnant women are still exposed to second-hand smoke in domestic situations. We would hope that smokers would be considerate and refrain from smoking when pregnant women are in their immediate vicinity.”
BMJ 14 February 2013