Recent studies determine whether public smoking bans decrease the amount of children being admitted to the hospital for lower respiratory tract infections.
Smoking has a direct impact on the respiratory system. The toxins and carcinogens found in cigarettes travel along the respiratory tract and can lead to both benign and malignant diseases at any point along the anatomical system. The lower respiratory tract consists of the trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli where gas exchange occurs.
A recent report in the British Medical Journal claims that there has been a decrease in hospital admissions for children with lower respiratory tract infections following the public smoking ban in the UK. This meta-analysis reviewed data from all over the world, including North America, the United Kingdom, and even China, where World Health Organization (WHO) policies limiting public smoking had been enacted. The five studies in total included over 27.5 million people.
After the smoking ban, the article identified that the number of children admitted to a hospital for lower respiratory tract infections has dropped by 18.5%. The amount of hospital admissions for children with severe asthma also witnessed a decrease by 9.8%. Research compiled in the Netherlands and the UK analyzed the effect of the WHO’s smoking policies on children’s health. Several studies included in the research showcased trends of a decrease in admissions for lower respiratory tract infections since the ban. Some studies outlined similar trends for admissions due to asthma exacerbations. The decrease in hospital admissions is likely due to lesser exposure to second-hand smoke.
The smoke-free legislation has resulted in an overall positive outcome for children’s health. A clear correlation between the passing of the legislation and the decrease in hospital admissions due to severe asthma exacerbations and lower respiratory tract infections has been identified. The article does, however, suggest that the drop in hospital admissions may also be attributed, in part, to the rise in taxes on products containing tobacco. In an effort to improve the overall health of the global population, the smoke-free legislation has proven to be a step in the right direction. By investing in educating young individuals about the biological impact of smoking on the human body, the World Health Organization may be able to decrease the number of smokers, thereby lowering exposure to second-hand smoke even further.
Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US); Office on Smoking and Health (US). How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2010. 7, Pulmonary Diseases. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53021/
- Torjesen, Ingrid. Child admissions for lower respiratory tract infections fall after smoking ban. The BMJ. 2017 September 05. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j4154