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Smoking causes cancer and death as well as premature births. The solution? A universal ban on public smoking!

Researchers in Belgium support the benefit of a public smoking ban after they demonstrated that making public spaces smoke-free in their country caused a dramatic drop in premature births. Read on to get all the info.

Everybody knows that maternal smoking can harm babies in the womb, and it is well-established that it can lead to premature births. But how does other people's second hand smoke affect your unborn sprout? A new study published in the British Medical Journal looked into this, and the outcome of the study strengthens the argument that public smoking harms fetuses. The study of 600,000 births was conducted by researchers from Hasselt University in Belgium, after the same country introduced a multi-phasal ban on public smoking.

The smoking ban started with workplaces and public areas in 2006, broadened to include restaurants in 2007 and then bars that serve food in 2010. The study's researchers looked into the rates of premature births during those years to see how they coincided with the public smoking ban. Amazingly, the study team found three successive drops in preterm births (before 37 weeks gestation), that coincided exactly with the phases of the public smoking ban! During each phase of the ban on public smoking, premature birth rates dropped by three percent which amounts to six in 1,000 births.

Researchers noted that the drop in preterm births could not be explained by other factors, like maternal age, socioeconomic factors, air pollution or flu epidemics.

What's more, researchers in Scotland came to similar conclusions last year (see: Scotland premature births down after smoking ban). Dr Tim Nawrot from Hasselt University pointed out that even slightly premature babies can suffer long-term health consequences.

He added:

"Because the ban happened at three different moments, we could show there was a consistent pattern of reduction in the risk of preterm delivery. It supports the notion that smoking bans have public health benefits even from early life."

Indeed! It is clear to everyone that smoking causes all kinds of adverse affects, and that it can ultimately kill. Public smoking which arguably includes smoking within the family has consequences that reach far beyond ourselves. This study should inspire other countries to introduce public smoking bans too, and smoking individuals to consider quitting very seriously.

What can you do if you are pregnant and don't live in a country with a public smoking ban in place?

This study shows that it is very possible that smoking can have a bad effect on your unborn baby. Earlier studies show that second hand smoke is basically just as dangerous as smoking yourself, and yet other studies have looked into the negative effects of third hand smoke. Third hand smoke is smoke residue that sits around a space on walls, floors, and especially inside fabrics, including furniture like couches and beds. Cigarette smoke and the thousands of chemicals it contains sticks around for much longer than the actual smoker does, in other words.

So, it makes all the sense in the world to do everything you can to avoid smokey spaces when you are pregnant, or have a small child. If your workplace allows smoking indoors, a pregnancy is a great time to try to get that banned. Smokers could still smoke outside, if they like. Such a proposal may not make you very popular among smokers, but you could be doing everyone in your office a great favor.

And if you're pregnant and a smoker yourself, or pregnant and living with someone who smokes?

Smoking is highly addictive, but kicking that horrible habit is very possible. Help is available, from your family doctor and from many other sources. Going cold turkey is probably the best. I've done it before, and I can say that it isn't all that bad. The first three days are the hardest, but it all gets better after that. If you are quitting smoking before trying to get pregnant, or when you are already pregnant, you know what you are doing it for and that makes your quest a whole lot easier! What do you think about the Belgian study, public smoking bans, and the effect other people's smoke has on your unborn baby? Please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below.

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