Protective Effects of Smoke-free Legislation on Birth Outcomes in England: A Regression Discontinuity Design

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Abstract

Background:

Environmental tobacco smoke has an adverse association with preterm birth and birth weight. England introduced a new law to make virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces smoke free on July 1, 2007. We investigated the effect of smoke-free legislation on birth outcomes in England using Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) maternity data.

Methods:

We used regression discontinuity, a quasi-experimental study design, which can facilitate valid causal inference, to analyze short-term effects of smoke-free legislation on birth weight, low birth weight, gestational age, preterm birth, and small for gestational age.

Results:

We analyzed 1,800,906 pregnancies resulting in singleton live-births in England between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2009. In the 1 to 5 months following the introduction of the smoke-free legislation, for those entering their third trimester, the risk of low birth weight decreased by between 8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 4%, 12%) and 14% (95% CI: 5%, 23%), very low birth weight between 28% (95% CI: 19%, 36%) and 32% (95% CI: 21%, 41%), preterm birth between 4% (95% CI: 1%, 8%) and 9% (95% CI: 2%, 16%), and small for gestational age between 5% (95% CI: 2%, 8%) and 9% (95% CI: 2%, 15%). The estimated impact of the smoke-free legislation varied by maternal age, deprivation, ethnicity, and region.

Conclusions:

The introduction of smoke-free legislation in England had an immediate estimated beneficial impact on birth outcomes overall, although we did not observe improvements across all age, ethnic, or deprivation groups.

Conclusions:

See video abstract at http://links.lww.com/EDE/B85.

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