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Aug 13, 2015 09:26 PM EDT

Smoking Bans Linked To Drop In Stillbirths, Newborn Deaths

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New research suggests that anti-smoking laws in England may be responsible for the drop in stillbirths and newborn deaths, The Guardian reported.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh revealed that since the smoking ban was introduced, stillbirths have dropped by almost 8 percent in England. The number of babies dying shortly after birth has also dropped by almost 8 percent.

The study suggests that "almost 1500 stillbirths and newborn deaths were averted in the first four years after the law to prohibit smoking in public places was introduced," The Medical Xpress reported.

Smoking and smoke-exposure during pregnancy are known to have long-term adverse effects on the health of unborn children, including increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

"This study is further evidence of the potential power of smoke-free legislation to protect present and future generations from the devastating health consequences of smoking and second hand exposure to tobacco smoke," Aziz Sheikh, co-director of the University of Edinburgh's Center for Medical Informatics, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers looked at information on more than 10 million births in England between 1995 and 2011. The team also assessed the impact of the smoking ban on the number of babies born with a low birth weight.

They found that more than five thousand fewer babies were born with a low birth weight of less than two and a half kilograms.

"Currently, only around 18 percent of the world's population is protected by comprehensive smoke-free laws. Accelerated action to implement smoking bans in the many countries yet to do so is likely to save considerable numbers of young lives and bring a healthier future for our unborn children," researcher Dr. Jasper Been said in a statement.

The findings are detailed in the journal Scientific Reports

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