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Smoke-free laws are linked with substantial decreases in preterm births and children’s hospital visits for asthma, according to an international group of scientists.

Pediatric hospital admissions for asthma and preterm births drop by 10 percent after smoke-free legislation is enacted, the researchers write in The Lancet. They reviewed 11 studies that covered more than 2.5 million births and 247,148 incidents of asthma, the Los Angeles Times reports. Five studies looked at smoke-free laws in North America and six investigated the effects of smoking bans in Europe.

They note babies, both before and after birth, are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of secondhand smoke because their lungs and immune systems are still developing. Secondhand smoke early in life has been associated with stillbirth, preterm birth, asthma, infant death and respiratory infections. Secondhand smoke exposure in childhood has recently been linked with the development of noncommunicable diseases in later life, they wrote.

“Together with the health benefits in adults, this study provides strong support for WHO [World Health Organization] recommendations to create smoke-free environments,” the researchers said.


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