New Smoking Laws Reduce Hospital Admissions For Children With Asthma
January 22, 2013

Drop In Child Asthma Hospital Admissions Linked To Anti-Smoking Laws

Alan McStravick for — Your Universe Online

Asthma in childhood is no different a disease than asthma that adults with the condition face. However, in children, asthma does pose unique challenges. The condition, characterized by inflammation of the lungs and airways when exposed to certain triggers, e.g. airborne pollens, cold weather and respiratory infections, can be responsible for interruptions to the daily lives of children. Daily symptoms are often an impediment to recreational play, sport activities, school attendance and even sleep. Left unmanaged, asthma in children can cause extremely dangerous and possibly fatal asthma attacks.

Childhood asthma is a leading cause of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and missed school days. There is no cure for the condition and, very often, asthma will persist with the sufferer into adulthood.

Good news for the asthma community arrived today, in the form of the published analysis of recent smoke-free laws implemented in the UK in 2007. Researchers at the Imperial College London, publishing their findings in the journal Pediatrics, claim their analysis of National Health Service (NHS) statistics collected from the July 2007 implementation of a law banning smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, shows a decrease in hospital admissions for children with asthma of 12.3 percent. This impressive figure represents only the first year after the law went into effect. Analysis of subsequent years showed a continued decline in hospital admissions, which, according to the research team, indicates the benefits of the legislation were sustained over time.

To put a number on it, the decrease in admissions between 2007 and 2010 was equivalent to 6,802 fewer children requiring emergency and prolonged hospital care for their condition.

In the UK, asthma affects nearly ten percent of the child and adolescent population. Prior to the 2007 law, hospital admissions for children who were suffering from a severe acute asthma attack were increasing by 2.2 percent each year. For the year of 2006/2007, a peak of 26,969 admissions was noted. It was apparent there was an immediate reversal of the trend after the law came into effect. Admission rates were significantly diminished for both boys and girls across all age groups. Socio-economically, the decrease was reported as sharing similarities, whether the child lived in either a wealthy or poor neighborhood, both in cities and rural areas.

This is not the first time anti-smoking legislation, pertaining specifically to shared public areas, has shown a decrease in admissions for children suffering from asthma. Previous studies out of Scotland and North America have also shown hospital visits have decreased for their child populations.

According to Dr. Christopher Millett of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the study, “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."

Also of note, the ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces has also led to a marked decrease in the rate of heart attacks in England. The researchers believe their findings should encourage countries where public smoking is still permitted to consider introducing similar forms of the UK legislation.