A team of researchers led by Dr Tim Nawrot at the Centre for Environmental Science at Hasselt University in Belgium confirmed that smoking during pregnancy can stunt the growth of unborn babies and shorten gestation; and that a smoking ban in public places can lead to a drop in pre-term births (births of babies before 37 weeks of gestation).
He and his team conducted the research on 606,877 single born babies delivered between 24 and 44 weeks of gestation in Flanders for 9 years from 2002 to 2011. This covered a period before, during and after the introduction of the smoking ban in Belgium. Smoking was banned in public places and most workplaces in Jan 2006 in Belgium. This was followed by a smoking ban in restaurants in Jan 2007, and in bars serving food in Jan 2010.
The results show a 3.13% reduction in the risk of pre-term births after Jan 2007 , and further reduction of 2.65% after Jan 2010.
The Belgium team said that there is a consistent pattern of reduction in the risk of preterm delivery with the successful prevention of smoking in public places.
Another study from Britain also found that smoking bans could lead to a swift and dramatic fall in the number of children admitted to hospital because of asthma attacks.