One of the most comprehensive studies to date backed up previous conclusions that smoke-free laws help reduce the rate of preterm births. These researchers looked at a three-phase smoking ban and tracked how each new stage affected the rate of premature deliveries. This analysis showed a significant improvement – especially from the stages of the ban that reduced exposure to second-hand smoke.
This analysis used data from more than 600,000 births – six percent of which were preterm. The first phase of the ban prohibited smoking in public places and workplaces, leading to a noticeable drop in the rate of preterm births.
The second phase banned smoking in restaurants. Under this new law, the rate of preterm births dropped by 3.13 percent. After the third phase took effect in 2010, banning all smoking in bars that serve food, the rate dropped another 2.65 percent. Taken together this is a surprisingly significant drop that shows a strong likelihood that smoke exposure contributes to premature deliveries.
The researchers summed up the importance of this study for mothers and newborns: “given that even a mild reduction in gestational age has been linked to adverse health outcomes in early and later life, our study has important public health implications.” Premature deliveries put newborns at serious risk of a number of complications as the result of a medical error, including cerebral palsy and other brain injuries.
Source: MedPage Today, “Smoke-Free Laws May Cut Preterm Births,” Todd Neale, Feb. 15, 2013