Friday, March 28th, 2014
Cases of premature births and asthma-related hospital visits dropped 10 percent since the introduction of public smoking bans across North American and Europe. Data of 11 recent studies where compiled to determine the overall impact of smoke-free legislation. The studies included more than 2.5 million births and about 250,000 hospital visits for asthma attacks. According to the study, 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. More from Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
In the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws are affecting the health of children, researchers from University of Edinburgh collaborated with researchers from Maastricht University, Hasselt University, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke-free legislation on child health. They found that the introduction of new laws that ban smoking in public places in North America and Europe has been followed by a decrease in rates of premature births and hospital visits for asthma attacks in children. These findings are published on March 28, 2014 in The Lancet.
Researchers analyzed 11 studies conducted in North America and Europe that included more than 2.5 million births and approximately 250,000 asthma-related hospital visits. They report that while the impact of anti-smoking laws varies between countries, the overall impact on child health is very positive. Specifically, the data show that rates of both preterm birth and hospital admissions for asthma were reduced by 10 percent following the implementation of laws that prohibited smoking in public places.
“This research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks. The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question,” said Aziz Sheikh, senior author and a physician-researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, visiting professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at The University of Edinburgh.
According to information in the article, 16 percent of the world’s population is covered by smoke-free laws, while 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Laws that prohibit smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants and work places, are already proven to protect adults from the health threats associated with passive smoking, but research to date has not systematically evaluated the impact of smoking bans on children.
Passive smoking can cause babies to be stillborn or born prematurely and is linked to certain birth defects, asthma and lung infections. Studies have also suggested that being exposed to second hand smoke during childhood may have long term health implications, contributing to the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes in later life.
Lead researcher, Dr Jasper Been of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences said, “Our research shows that smoking bans are an effective way to protect the health of our children.
These findings should help to accelerate the introduction of anti-smoking legislation in areas not currently protected.”
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Image: Smoking endangers the health of the child via Shutterstock.
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Monday, March 17th, 2014
Pregnant women who are exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke face a higher risk of suffering a miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal death–as high a risk, in fact, as if the women had smoked during pregnancy themselves. More from Reuters on a new study published in the journal Tobacco Control:
“We often think of the diseases that secondhand smoke causes as diseases of older people,” epidemiologist Andrew Hyland told Reuters Health. “The results of this study show that secondhand smoke can affect even unborn babies.”
Hyland led the study at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. He and his colleagues found the pregnancy risks associated with women’s secondhand smoke exposure were almost as high as the risks related to their own cigarette smoking.
The study was the first to investigate the effects of secondhand smoke using quantified, lifetime exposure levels. The analysis arms clinicians like Dr. Maurice Druzin, from Stanford University Medical Center in California, with facts to try to persuade expectant fathers and others living with pregnant women to refrain from smoking at home.
“This is excellent ammunition for us to emphasize what we’ve known for a long time, but now we’ve got data to support it,” Druzin, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health.
“This is the first study that shows that secondhand smoke has the same effect as being a primary smoker,” he said. “That is a game changer.”
Hyland’s team used data from a study of 80,762 women between the ages of 50 and 79 years old. Researchers asked the women about their own smoking and the amount of secondhand smoke they were exposed to as children and adults, as well as about their history of pregnancy problems.
Among women who never smoked themselves, the chances of having a stillbirth were 22 percent higher for those who were exposed to any tobacco smoke than for unexposed women. That was after the researchers took into account other potential contributors, including women’s weight, education and alcohol drinking.
For women who were exposed to the highest lifelong levels of secondhand smoke, the risk of having a stillbirth was even greater – 55 percent higher than among unexposed women.
The researchers defined the highest level of exposure to secondhand smoke as at least 10 years of exposure during childhood, at least 20 years during adulthood and at least 10 years in the workplace.
At that level, a woman’s risk of a tubal ectopic pregnancy was 61 percent higher than among unexposed women, and her risk of a miscarriage was 17 percent higher.
“We’re not talking about an elevated risk of a rare event,” Hyland said of the miscarriage finding. “We’re talking about something that happens all the time.”
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Image: Man smoking near pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 17th, 2013
In spite of repeated public health messages warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke, too many children with asthma are still exposed to it. Secondhand smoke is known to exacerbate their symptoms and raise their risk of serious complications, according to new research published in the journal Academic Pediatrics. Reuters has more:
According to national data from 2003 to 2010, half of all children ages 6 to 19, even those with asthma, have been exposed to secondhand smoke.
For kids ages 6 to 11, even low levels of second hand smoke were linked to more missed school days, trouble sleeping, less physical activity and more wheezing, the authors write in Academic Pediatrics.
The fact that kids with asthma are still inhaling others’ smoke is a real problem, said Dr. Karen M. Wilson, who studies children’s’ exposure to secondhand smoke at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora.
“Secondhand smoke consists of particulate matter, and chemicals, both of which induce an inflammatory response in the airways, which can cause an asthma attack,” said Wilson, who was not involved in the study.
Limiting physical activity is also dangerous because it increases the chances a child will become obese, which worsens asthma, she told Reuters Health.
For older children, secondhand smoke was not linked to those negative symptoms.
Image: Asthmatic child with a smoker, via Shutterstock
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