Child asthma problems alleviated since the smoking ban
22nd January 2013
A study has found that the total number of children requiring hospital treatment because of their asthma has declined since the introduction of the July 2007 smoking ban – prohibiting lighting up in all enclosed public spaces such as restaurants, nightclubs, bars, shopping centres, etc. The Imperial College London’s analysis on NHS figures has been published in the journal Pediatrics. They looked at admission rates dating all the way back to April 2002 and  they explain there has been an incredible 8.9% reduction in hospital admissions following the first 12 months after the ban came into play. Intriguingly, researchers identified that preceding the 2007 ban there was a 2.2% rise each year in the number of children admitted to hospital due to severe asthma symptoms that include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. Taking into account the predicted 2.2% rise annually, researchers say that in those first 12 months, the ban had therefore helped to decrease admissions by 12% with this decline continuing in subsequent years and a 3.4% fall per year for the next two years. This clearly demonstrates the positive impact the legislation is having on health in addition to emphasising how damaging cigarette smoke actually is. Lead researcher Dr Christopher Millett says that the drop works out at an estimated 6,802 fewer hospital admissions in the first three years of the smoking legislation coming into effect. Dr Millett spoke on the huge health benefits since the introduction of the ban, commenting: “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 an 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.” Medical Specialists Pharmacy finds Dr Millett’s comments particularly interesting as he touches on many topics that we have previously addressed such as the underestimated subject of second-hand (passive) smoking. Not just displeasing because of the foul odour, second-hand smoking can be a killer and those who do smoke need to be clued-up about this serious matter and consider the harm they are inflicting on those around them – in addition to themselves. Parents who are smoking inside their cars  is another factor not considered often enough and the impact this has to their children’s health – especially if a child is asthmatic as this is one factor that can cause their symptoms to flare-up. Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK, was happy with the findings of the study and she said: “It's great to see growing evidence of the positive impact of smoke-free legislation. This is something we campaigned for, so it is particularly encouraging that there has been a fall in children's hospital admissions for asthma since its introduction.” Asthma is a long-term respiratory condition where the air passages within the lungs become unexpectedly inflamed, narrowed and swollen. This leads to a prevention of airflow into and out of the lungs. Asthma attacks happen usually following a response to an allergen, cold air, exercise, or emotional stress. There are a predicted 5.4 million people in the UK currently receive treatment for asthma – 1 in every 11 children and 1 in every 12 adults. This equates to 8.8% of the total population (62 million estimated in 2010). In addition, it affects a staggering 300 million people worldwide. Although there is no cure, asthma can be controlled through the use of preventer and reliever inhalers and Medical Specialists provide many varieties of each and more information about these and how to obtain them can be found on the Asthma and Allergies area of the website.