How smoking bans are positively affecting newborn babies.
Photo by Amber Faust/Pexels.
THE GOOD NEWS:
Hospitals in Spain are seeing fewer underweight and premature babies after a nationwide ban on smoking.
Fewer premature and underweight infants are being born in Spain than ever before, and it may be thanks to the country’s recent smoking ban. Spain implemented two different restrictions. In 2006, they banned smoking from most workplaces. (The hospitality industry was excluded for the most part.) Then in 2011, they banned the use of tobacco in almost all public places.
To understand the findings of researchers who tracked a decline in premature babies following these smoking bans, we first have to understand the babies themselves. If babies are born after 37 weeks, they are considered to have been carried to full term. Babies born prematurely can have trouble breathing or digesting. Premature babies can also have challenges later on when it comes to hearing, vision, or building cognitive skills.
Researchers studied 5 million babies born in Spain from 2000 to 2013. Following the “partial smoking ban” of 2006, there was a 4.9% reduction in babies who were born small for their gestational age. But after the “comprehensive smoking ban” in 2011, the number of underweight babies immediately fell 2.3% — and continued to decline. Furthermore, there was an immediate 4.5% reduction in the preterm birth rate.
The results of this study, while encouraging, don’t factor in quite a few variables. For example, we don’t know whether the parents of the premature children were smokers or whether they worked in an environment that would expose them to more smoke. Without tying up the loose ends, we’re not necessarily able to say how much the smoking bans directly affect the birth rate of premature children in Spain. Nonetheless, limiting tobacco exposure is likely working in these babies’ favor.
The bans’ value isn’t only in reducing the amount of exposure Spanish citizens have to tobacco. The ban is also more likely to discourage parents from smoking. It might allow a pregnant woman to quit smoking, in addition to being a positive public health shift.