A decade ago the Republic of Ireland introduced the world’s very first smoking ban for the workplace. The initial impact sparked strong debate before countries from all over the world soon followed suit. Now the smoking ban has been put into place across a variety of different public places and the latest findings suggest a range of health benefits have been increased because of the ban.
Whilst there have been previous conclusions that laws prohibiting smoking in public places protect adults from the effects of passive smoking, this study was the first to concentrate on the welfare of children.
An international study published in the Lancet exclaimed how the smoking ban has had a particularly productive effect on the health of children, stating that there has been a 10% reduction in premature births and severe childhood asthma incidents within a year of smoke-free laws being introduced.
Looking at over 2.5 million births and almost 250,000 hospital attendances for asthma conditions in children, lead study author, Dr Jasper Been, from the Maastricht University Medical Centre in The Netherlands, said the research on children under 12 was very clear.
He said: “Our study provides clear evidence that smoking bans have considerable public health benefits for perinatal and child health, and provides strong support for WHO recommendations to create smoke-free public environments on a national level.
The team, from University of Edinburgh, Maastricht University, Hasselt University in Belgium, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital analysed data from a previous 11 studies across North America and Europe.
The study also found a 5% improvement in the amount of children being born very small for their age after the introduction of smoke-free laws. Co-author Professor Aziz Sheikh, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts, and the University of Edinburgh, said there was still potential to help improve the health of more children with only 16% of the world’s population currently covered by smoke-free laws.
She said: “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.”
Public health experts are hoping that the research will help present to countries the health benefits of introducing smoking bans. As countries around the world start to adopt stricter legislation on smoking in public places, the health benefits will become even more evident.
The principles of the smoking ban aims to counter the effects of second hand smoking and many laws have been put in place since the initial notion. The future generation can grow up knowing there is fresher, cleaner air in the majority of public places.
Here are some of the current laws in place we have developed and the principles that could be in place in the future. Indoor settings that are open to the public are smoke-free, such as restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas, bars and areas with children. Signs are in place as polite notice to identify non-smoking areas or identify areas that are available for smoking. There has been a decrease in ashtrays and common benches placed in public places where smoking could be promoted. In Sydney smoking is banned across their world famous beaches such as Bondi beach whilst many states in the US have also added the ban. The introduction of zero-smoking in cars with children in will also come in to place in the UK in 2015.
For children and our next generation of adults the concept of smoking in a public place will seem weird and absurd. The smoking ban has helped change our approach to the consideration of others and their health, with evidence now in place that there has been a lasting impact.
How has the smoking ban changed your life over the past decade?