Smoking Bans Improving Kids' Health

A new study finds that smoking bans make for fewer hospitalizations for kids with asthma. This discovery suggests that public smoking laws are having a greater impact on health than anyone had guessed.

Earlier studies had shown that heart attack rates for adults had undergone a decline after the adoption of the smoking bans. But this new study, performed in Scotland, looked at the hospitalization rates of kids with asthma. The results showed that hospitalization rates had fallen by 13% on an annual basis after the smoking ban was put into place in 2006 for public buildings such as restaurants and bars and in the workplace.

Infamous Record

Up until 2006, hospitalizations for asthmatic children in Scotland had been rising 5% on an annual basis. Scotland has an infamous record in poor health, among the various European countries.

Immediate Benefits

Previous studies performed in the U.S., specifically in Kentucky and in Arizona, had come to the same conclusions. But the Scottish study is the largest of its kind to date and offers us the strongest evidence that banning smoking can generate immediate health benefits for lots of people.

A researcher from the University of California at San Francisco, Stanton Glantz, explains that the effects of these anti-smoking laws are beyond what anyone would have expected. Glantz' area of research is on the health effects of smoking, though he was not involved in the Scottish study, which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cigarette smoke is a known trigger for asthma attacks. Researchers thought that observing severe cases of child asthma might be a good way to determine the immediate effects of the smoking ban. They were right. 

But Terry Pechacek, who heads up the CDC's office for smoking and health, says that acute asthma is only the "tip of the iceberg." Pechacek says that smoking causes other breathing problems, not all of them as serious as asthma, along with ear infections and many other health issues. It has been possible to link these known health issues, when they appear in children, to smoking caregivers.

Almost half of U.S. children who end up hospitalized due to asthma attacks, around 40% of them, live with people who smoke. This statistic is even more significant when viewed within the perspective that only 21% of U.S. adults smoke. This is according to the latest statistics of the CDC.