Strong Smoke-Free Law in Brazil May Have Led To Drop in Infant Mortality

A recent research suggests that stricter laws against smoking in public places may be the reason for a decline in the number of infant deaths in Brazil.

Researchers from the Imperial College London, the Brazilian National Cancer Institute, and Erasmus Medical Centre, suggest that stronger legislation against smoking between 2000 and 2016 may have prevented around 15,000 deaths of children below 1 years of age in Brazil. Exposure to smoke can be very harmful to children, especially during gestation, when it can affect fetal development and increase risk of still-births and premature delivery. Furthermore, contact with smoke can lead to respiratory disorders and death in infants.

In the recent study, researchers assessed the impact of stricter anti-smoking legislations in an emerging economy by studying data on live births, and infant and neonatal deaths in Brazil for the period 2000-2016. In 2014, the Brazilian government implemented stronger anti-smoking regulations in the country, thereby banning smoking in public areas that are partially or fully enclosed such as restaurants. The researchers noted a reduction of 5.2% in infant mortality and 3.4% decline in neonatal mortality.

Further analysis showed that completely banning smoking had more impact on infant deaths in comparison to partial bans. 17 states in the country had imposed partial bans prior to 2014, which included smoking rooms and allowing smoking in partially-enclosed public places. On the other hand, 9 states implemented complete bans. Partial bans showed a reduction of 3.3% in infant deaths, however no significant impact was observed on neonatal deaths.

Lead author, Dr. Thomas Hone of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London concludes, “You can see from Brazil’s example how much of a difference we can make to children’s health by completely banning smoking in public places. Unfortunately most of the world’s people still aren’t covered by comprehensive smoking bans. It’s appalling that so many babies and children are being harmed by second-hand smoke when a relatively easy measure could help to prevent this.”