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Smoke-free law linked to large fall in hospital admissions for childhood asthma

Research led by Dr Chris Millett from the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London reported that the introduction of smoke-free legislation in England was immediately followed by a fall in the number of children admitted to hospital with asthma symptoms, a new study has found.

NHS statistics analysed Dr Millett and his colleagues show a 12.3 per cent fall in admissions for childhood asthma in the first year after the law on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces came into effect in July 2007. Asthma admissions continued to fall in subsequent years, suggesting that the benefits of the legislation were sustained over time. The effect was equivalent to 6,802 fewer hospital admissions in the first three years of the legislation, in the analysis published in the US journal Pediatrics.

Dr Millett said: "There is already evidence that eliminating smoking from public places has resulted in substantial population health benefits in England, and this study shows that those benefits extend to reducing hospital admissions for childhood asthma. Previous studies have also suggested that the smoke-free law changed people's attitudes about exposing others to second-hand smoke and led more people to abstain from smoking voluntarily at home and in cars. We think that exposing children to less second-hand smoke in these settings probably played in important role in reducing asthma attacks. The findings are good news for England, and they should encourage countries where public smoking is permitted to consider introducing similar legislation."

The study was widely reported in the media including by the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph.

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