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Smoking Ban can Lower Preterm Birth Risk: Study

Update Date: Feb 15, 2013 03:16 AM EST

Banning smoking can improve pregnancy outcomes over the years, says a new study.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, problems with the placenta and increase in the chances of the baby being born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. Also, smoking increases the risk of the baby being born before full-term, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency advises pregnant women to quit smoking.

However, does implementing smoking restrictions have any impact on overall preterm birth risk? The new study has found that putting restrictions on smoking can really lower the risk of babies being born early.

The present study was led by Dr. Tim Nawrot from Hasselt University. It looked at the impact of the smoking ban on preterm birth in Belgium, which recently passed smoke-free legislation in public and in workplaces.

The study included more than 600,000 single-born babies who were delivered at 24-44 weeks of gestation between the years 2002 and 2011. Babies born before week 37 were categorized as preterm birth.

The ban on smoking in Belgium was implemented over three phases: in public places and most workplaces in January 2006, in restaurants in January 2007, and in bars serving food in January 2010, according to a news release from bmj.

Study results showed that the risk of preterm birth reduced from more than 3 percent in the year 2007 to about 2.65 percent in 2010. Surprisingly, the risk reduction in preterm birth remained even after researchers accounted for other factors like mothers' age, socioeconomic status and even air pollution and flu outbreaks.

State policies on tobacco use and taxes on cigarettes prevent mothers-to-be from smoking, according to a previous study published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Our study shows a consistent pattern of reduction in the risk of preterm delivery with successive population interventions to restrict smoking. It supports the notion that smoking bans have public health benefits even from early life. More and more countries in Europe are adopting stricter legislation on smoking in public places. These results underscore the public health benefit of smoking ban policies," the study authors said.

The study is published in BMJ.

Some 13 percent of women in the U.S. report smoking during the last trimester of the pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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