Asthma Cases in Children Fall in Wake of Smoke-Free Laws

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A new study has shown that hospital admissions for childhood asthma have fallen significantly following the introduction of a smoke-free law in the U.K. The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, showed a 12.3% fall in admissions for childhood asthma in the first year after the law was put in place.

A law banning smoking in enclosed public spaces and workplaces was implemented in the U.K in 2007. Before the law, hospital admissions were rising by 2.2% a year, and peaked at 26,969 in 2006/2007. After the law, the trend immediately reversed among all children, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, or whether they lived in rural or urban areas.

"There is already evidence that eliminating smoking from public places has resulted in substantial population health benefits in England, and this study shows that those benefits extend to reducing hospital admissions for childhood asthma," said Dr. Christopher Millett, lead author of the study and a senior lecturer in the Imperial College London's School of Public Health. "Previous studies have also suggested that the smoke-free law changed people's attitudes about exposing others to second-hand smoke and led more people to abstain from smoking voluntarily at home and in cars. We think that exposing children to less second-hand smoke in these settings probably played in important role in reducing asthma attacks.

Researchers analyzed NHS (National Health Service) data from the first year following the passage of the anti-smoking law, and observed that asthma admissions continued to fall in subsequent years. According to the study, this corresponds to 6,802 fewer admissions in the first three years of the legislation.

"The findings are good news for England, and they should encourage countries where public smoking is permitted to consider introducing similar legislation," said Millett.

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