Powerful data reported from Scotland in the New England Journal of Medicine last week (see report) show substantial reductions in childhood hospitalizations for asthma following implementation of a ban on smoking in public laces. Using sate of the art approaches to data analysis the authors report on hospitalizations for children and adolescents. After the implementation of the legislation in Scotland in March 2006, smoking in public places was banned and measures of exposure showed expected decreases.
Childhood asthma is exacerbated by exposure to second hand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke. The reduction in hospitalization again points to the value of a full-scale public health efforts including policy changes to reduce the burden of cigarettes. Hospitalizations were reduced by 18 percent per year after the legislation! This reduction was seen in both preschool and school aged children.
This impact on hospitalization not only reduced the burden of asthma on children and their families but also clearly must have saved the Scottish health care system substantial expenditures for acute admissions of asthmatic children. Other benefits for children not included in this report are fewer middle ear infections. These data will add to the power of public policy as a key component of our tobacco control and public health actions.