England smoking ban cuts children hospital admissions

In collaboration with the Press Association

Thousands of children may have been spared serious illness and admission to hospital by the smoking ban in England, research has shown.

"These finding show that keeping children out of a smoky atmosphere can have a real benefit on their health." - George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK 

The law making it illegal to smoke in public indoor places saw 11,000 fewer children being admitted to hospital each year with lung infections, the study found.

“Despite the smoking ban being aimed at pubs and clubs which are mostly used by adults, it’s great to see the message getting through that second hand smoke presents clear dangers to both children and adults,” said George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager. 

Researchers analysed more than 1.6 million hospital admissions of children aged 14 and under across England between 2001 to 2012.

They found that the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007 was followed by an immediate reduction of 13.8 per cent in the number of admissions for lower respiratory tract infections.

Admissions for upper respiratory tract infections also decreased but at a more gradual rate. The sharpest falls were seen in the most deprived children.

Dr Jasper Been, from the University of Edinburgh, who led the research published in the European Respiratory Journal, said: "Our results add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of smoke-free legislation. Although our results cannot definitively establish a cause and effect, the rigorous analysis clearly shows that the introduction of smoke-free legislation was associated with significant reductions in hospital admissions among children."

Colleague Professor Aziz Sheikh, also from the University of Edinburgh, said: "When you look at the results of this study alongside national data showing a decrease in smoking within the home, the findings greatly strengthen the recommendations for the global implementation of legislation prohibiting smoking in public places.

"We urge other nations to consider introducing and enforcing smoke-free legislation in order to protect the health of children, the most vulnerable members of society."

In their paper, the scientists said breathing in second-hand smoke was known to increase susceptibility to bacterial or viral lung diseases such as bronchitis and bronchiolitis as well as middle ear infection.

A vast majority of the estimated 166,000 children who die worldwide each year from being exposed to second-hand smoke are due to respiratory tract infections.

"These finding show that keeping children out of a smoky atmosphere can have a real benefit on their health. Keeping homes and cars smokefree helps them even more,” added Butterworth.