Drop in pregnancy complications after smoking ban
Number of babies born pre-term fell by 10% in Scotland after ban brought in nearly six years ago.
Complications in pregnancy have fallen as a result of the ban on smoking in public places, according to a new study.
Researchers found the ban, introduced almost six years ago, has led to a drop in the number of babies being born before they reach full term.
It has also reduced the number of infants being born underweight.
Legislation outlawing smoking in enclosed public places, such as pubs and restaurants, came into force in Scotland on March 26, 2006.
The research team, led by Professor Jill Pell of the University of Glasgow's Institute of Health and Wellbeing, looked at more than 700,000 single-baby births before and after the introduction of the ban.
The number of mothers who smoked fell from 25.4% to 18.8% after the new law was brought in, researchers discovered.
Experts further found there was a drop of more than 10% in the overall number of babies born "pre-term", which is defined as delivery before 37 weeks' gestation.
There was also a 5% drop in the number of infants born under the expected weight, and a fall of 8% in babies born "very small for gestational size".
Dr Pell said the research highlighted the positive health benefits which can stem from tobacco control legislation.
She said: "These findings add to the growing evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation and support the adoption of such legislation in other countries which have yet to implement smoking bans.
"These reductions occurred both in mothers who smoked and those who had never smoked.
"While survival rates for pre-term deliveries have improved over the years, infants are still at risk of developing long-term health problems so any intervention that can reduce the risk of pre-term delivery has the potential to produce important public health benefits.
"The potential for tobacco control legislation to have a positive effect on health is becoming increasingly clear."
Researchers looked at data for babies born between January 1996 and December 2009, taken from the Scottish Morbidity Record, which collected information on all women discharged from Scottish maternity hospitals.
The research paper, funded by the Chief Scientist Office, is published in the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine (PLoS).