medwireNews: A ban on smoking in enclosed public and workplaces, introduced in England in 2007, was followed by an immediate dip in the number of pediatric hospital admissions for asthma, researchers say.
Notably, this contrasted with the time leading up to the ban, where admission levels were increasing, year on year.
The authors, reporting in Pediatrics, used data for the period 2002-2010 from the Hospital Episodes Statistics database, which records all hospital admissions in England.
Prior to the legislation, childhood asthma hospital admissions were increasing by 2.2% each year, and had reached 26,969 in the year prior to the ban.
By contrast, in the year following the ban, the admission rate fell by 8.9%. Furthermore, the previous trend in increasing admissions reversed, to an average 3.4% decline each year, leading the authors to estimate that 6802 hospital admissions were prevented during the first 3 years of the ban.
While it has been speculated that the ban might have greatest impact on children from the poorest households, the authors found no significant differences in reductions according to age, gender, socioeconomic status, or geography.
The authors, Christopher Millett (Imperial College London, UK) and colleagues, believe the effect of the legislation on childhood asthma admissions is not due directly to the decline in public smoking.
"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 an important role in reducing asthma attacks," said Millett in a press statement.
The growing body of evidence for the benefits of bans on public smoking supports the need for more widespread, and strictly-enforced, public smoking laws, the team concludes.
"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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