Once upon a time I was a smoker. I was young and free and didn’t give a shit about the health repercussions of such a disgusting habit. Then smoking was banned inside establishments in California. Then it was banned in parks and close to public buildings. Then you became a pariah if you lit up. Then I quit. The public smoking ban probably added years to my life.
Apparently, smoking bans aren’t just good for those who are lighting up. Second-hand smoke is a serious public health issue. Thanks to a Belgian study, we now know what a positive effect restricting smoking in public places is having. Guess who it’s really helping? Our unborn babies.
Everyone knows that smoking while pregnant or being exposed to second hand smoke raises the risks of preterm labor and can even stunt the growth of babies. I guess it’s only logical that public smoking bans would have a positive impact on the health of gestating babies:
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.”
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.
A three percent reduction in numbers that large is huge. I know it’s easy to be someone who has already given up a bad habit pointing fingers at those who haven’t. But smoking in public is a serious public health issue. I don’t want anyone else making health decisions for me or my future children. I breathe in enough crap as it is living in NYC, thank you very much.