8% fall in stillbirths linked to smoking ban
Stillbirths have dropped by almost 8% in England since the smoking ban was introduced, new research shows.
The number of babies dying shortly after birth has also dropped by almost 8%, according to the study.
A team led by Edinburgh University looked at information on more than 10 million births in England between 1995 and 2011.
The findings suggest that almost 1,500 stillbirths and newborn deaths were averted in the first four years after the law to prohibit smoking in public places was enacted on July 1, 2007.
Researchers also assessed the impact of the smoking ban on the number of babies born with a low birth weight, which is linked to health issues in later life such as heart disease and diabetes.
More than 5,000 fewer babies were born with a low birth weight of less than 2.5kg, the study estimates.
Smoking and exposure to smoke during pregnancy are known to have long-term adverse effects on the health of unborn children.
Research has previously shown that rates of premature births have dropped significantly in countries where smoke-free legislation has been introduced.
The number of children being admitted to hospital for asthma attacks and severe respiratory infections has also fallen since the bans.
Dr Jasper Been, honorary research fellow at Edinburgh University, said: "Currently only around 18% of the world's population is protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws.
"Accelerated action to implement smoking bans in the many countries yet to do so is likely to save considerable numbers of young lives and bring a healthier future for our unborn children."
Professor Aziz Sheikh, co-director of the university's Centre for Medical Informatics, said: "This study is further evidence of the potential power of smoke-free legislation to protect present and future generations from the devastating health consequences of smoking and second hand exposure to tobacco smoke."
Researchers from Glasgow University, Imperial College London and the Erasmus University Medical Centre and Maastricht University in the Netherlands contributed to the study.
Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US also took part in the research, which is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
It was funded by the Thrasher Research Fund and the International Pediatric Research Foundation.