PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It’s hard to believe that not so long ago smoking was a fairly trendy fad. News anchors lit up while on air and Hollywood celebrities made puffing away feel glamorous. Now, 27 states across the U.S. have smoking bans mandated in restaurants and bars as the act of lighting up in public has become vilified, and rightly so, as health advocates agree.
But do smoking bans in public places actually helped make the country a healthier place? Researchers behind a new, extensive study say yes — and they back up their claims with some significant findings.
The 15-year study found that rates of children visiting hospitals with asthma-related issues decreased by 17 percent three years after smoking bans were enacted. Researchers tracked ER visits across 14 states in the three years before the ban was put in place in each respective city and in the three years after, and found the number of children complaining of asthma problems dropped each year after the ban.
“Children are in a very unique situation in that they have very little control over their environment,” study co-auther Dr. Christina Ciaccio says in a release. “This study shows that even those short exposures to secondhand smoke in public spaces like restaurants can have a significant impact on asthma exacerbations.”
The researchers evaluated more than 335,000 hospital visits in all between 2000 and 2014, taking into consideration factors such as the patient’s gender, age and race. They also noted whether the patient was a Medicaid holder to consider socioeconomic status as well.
Ciaccio and co-authors Tami Gurley-Calvez and Theresa Shireman say that more cities should institute anti-smoking laws as a result of the study.
“Clean indoor air laws not only reduce expensive health care use, but they also help parents and their children avoid time-consuming, stressful events,” Shireman said in the release.
Of course, the study couldn’t conclude that smoking bans were the definite reasons for the decline in hospital visits, but they believe the correlation makes sense.
“Combined with other studies, our results make it clear that clean indoor air legislation improves public health,” Shireman said.
The study is published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.