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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Going up in smoke




At last! Smoking -or rather not smoking - is beginning to show health benefits in the here and now that are more tangible to your average smoker than scary warnings about cancer and heart disease in the distant future.

Two recent studies have reported on the benefits that not smoking is having on young people. One in Pediatrics reported a sharp fall in the number of children admitted to hospital with severe asthma, linking it to the smoke free legislation introduced in England. Whilst another study in the US published in the American Journal of Public Health reported on the effectiveness of smoke free air laws and state tobacco control programmes on preventing youth smoking in the US. 

Earlier studies reported on the benefits to bar staff that the smoking ban has brought - for example, reductions in respiratory illnesses whilst other studies have reported on the reduction of admission to hospital for acute coronary syndrome.

The asthma study found that in the first three years after the ban on smoking in public places, introduced in England 2007, the number of admissions to hospital for childhood asthma was down by 6,802. Before the implementation of the legislation, the admission rates for childhood asthma were going up by 2.2%. The results were the same for boys and girls regardless of whether they lived in towns or rural areas, whether they were poor or wealthy. A similar fall in Scotland, where the public ban was enforced a year earlier was reported in a previous study.

The study allays early fears that there would be an increase in smoking at home if people were not allowed to smoke in public places. In fact, the researchers from Imperial College in London said that it appeared  that more people are moving towards having smoke free homes instead.

Capitalising on these benefits is key if public health is to maintain some sort of momentum to reduce smoking and ideally prevent children taking up smoking in the first place.  In recent years it seems the twin challenges of obesity and alcohol have come to the front whilst anti –smoking has been pedalling furiously behind. 

But the recent scary TV advertising showing a tumour growing out of a cigarette and the launch of the Department of Health’s recent Quick Kit Campaign http://campaigns.dh.gov.uk/2012/11/09/quit-kit-campaign-2013/ should see the stop smoking agenda back on track. And not before time, as another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine into women and smoking reported a steep increase in the risk of women smokers dying from lung cancer – attributable to more women smoking and also a decrease in mortality amongst women who were non-smokers. 

As my grandfather (the first in four generations of doctors/nurses/midwives) might have said: the three greatest causes of death are: smoking, smoking and smoking.

References
Millet C, Tayu Lee J, Laverty A, Glantz S, Majeed A ; Hospital Admissions for Childhood Asthma After Smoke-Free Legislation in England Published online January 15 2013 pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/01/15/peds.2012-2592.abstract

Farrelly MC, Loomis BR, Han B et al; A Comprehensive Examination of the Influence of State Tobacco Control Programs and Policies on Youth Smoking. Published online January 17 2013 Am J Public Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23327252#

Thun MJ, Carter BD, Feskanich D, et al. 50-Year Trends in Smoking-Related Mortality in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine. Published online January 24 2013




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