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The nationwide ban on smoking in public places took effect in March 2006. The researchers analyzed data on preterm delivery and small-for-gestational-age babies born between January 1996 and December 2009.
The number of mothers who smoked dropped from more than 25 percent before the smoking ban to about 19 percent after the ban. The researchers also found that preterm deliveries fell by more than 10 percent, while there was a nearly 5 percent decrease in the number of infants born small and a nearly 8 percent decrease in the number of infants born very small.
These decreases in preterm deliveries and underweight babies occurred both in mothers who smoked and in those who had never smoked, a finding that highlights the impact of secondhand smoke, the researchers said.
The study appears online March 6 in the journal PLoS Medicine.
"The results of our study add to the growing evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation and lend support to the adoption of such legislation in countries where it does not currently exist," the study authors, led by Jill Pell of the University of Glasgow, concluded in a journal news release.
While researchers found an association between the smoking ban and decreases in preterm births and low birthweight babies, the study did not prove those decreases were a direct result of the ban.
-- Robert Preidt
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