Tobacco control policies decreased hospitalization for severe chest infections in children by 18%.
Cigarettes are known to cause numerous health problems, including heart disease and cancers. Federal governments have explored multiple options to reduce the harmful effects of cigarettes, including controlling tobacco use in public spaces to decrease the risk of secondhand smoke.
A new study published by The Lancet Public Health found that tobacco control policies have reduced the prevalence of hospital admissions related to asthma attacks in pediatric patients, while also lowering the rate of premature births.
Included in the study were data for more than 57 million births and 2.7 million hospital admissions in North America, Europe, and China. These results offer a robust view of the impact the policies have had on children’s health around the world.
Since tobacco control policies were implemented, the authors discovered that pediatric hospitalization for severe chest infections were reduced by 18% in the countries, according to the study.
Additionally, serious asthma attacks and premature births were reduced by 10% and 4%, respectively, since the laws were enacted.
The authors also report that increasing the tax on tobacco products may have played a role in the improvements, but the findings were not as substantial, according to the study.
“Our evaluation provides compelling evidence of the considerable impact of tobacco control policies on child health,” said researcher Aziz Sheikh, MD. “This work should spur governments to take action to implement tried and tested policies — strongly advocated by the World Health Organization – to reduce second-hand smoke exposure and improve a range of important health outcomes in infants and children.”
Approximately half of all children are exposed to tobacco smoke, making them more likely to develop chest infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. These patients are also more likely to experience severe asthma attacks that require hospitalization, according to the study. These occurrences affect quality of life and pose a financial burden.
Additionally, babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy have an increased risk of premature birth and other complications that may affect the child throughout their life.
The global cost of complications related to tobacco is approximately $1.4 trillion, highlighting the immense financial burden.
These findings underscore the success of tobacco control policies, as well as call for additional measures to prevent tobacco use and exposure.
“Our study demonstrates that children’s health benefits substantially from smoke-free laws and raising tobacco prices,” said researcher Jasper Been, MD. “To protect the health of some of the most vulnerable members of society, implementation of such tobacco control policies should be accelerated across the globe. The effectiveness of additional strategies also needs to be evaluated.”