In March of 2006, Scotland passed legislation that banned smoking in public settings. The legislation did not focus on pregnant women, but the ban has proven to be quite helpful in terms of reducing the number of preterm deliveries in the country. Scotland was the first country in the UK to pass this type of public legislation.

According to the study published in PLoS Medicine, the total number of infants born prematurely since the ban was passed has dropped significantly. In addition, the number of infants born at a weight lower than normal for gestational age also dropped.
The legislation was introduced to improve the health of everyone in public situations. The tag-along health benefits for pregnant women were just an added benefit. Scotland is hoping other countries in the UK will follow along and pass the same legislation.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow believe “there is growing evidence of the potential for tobacco control legislation to have a positive impact on health.” But, not all countries are quick to jump on the legislation band-wagon, despite current and building evidence.

Researchers used data collected during the 14-year period between Jan. 1996 and Dec. 2009 for the study. Data was collected on infants born at a weight lower than normal for gestational age and infants delivered prematurely due to preterm labor. Before tobacco legislation was passed about 25-percent of pregnant women in Scotland smoked. After the ban that number dropped to about 19-percent.

Researchers noted a 10-percent reduction in premature births and a 5-percent reduction in the number of infants born at a weight lower than that of infants of normal gestational size. Reductions were seen in both the smoking and non-smoking populations, so there is some evidence that second-hand smoke was responsible for some of the pregnancy complications.

Source: Daniel F. Mackay, Scott M. Nelson, Sally J. Haw, Jill P. Pell. PLoS Medicine. 6 March, 2012.