Case proved: smoke-free is better

‌Research led by Professor Jill Pell has been influential in the global debate around the benefits of smoke-free legislation.

no smoking sign‌Since the end of March 2006, smoking has been prohibited by law in all enclosed public spaces throughout Scotland, with the specific aim of protecting non-smokers from the effects of second-hand smoke.

Studies led by the University of Glasgow have provided the most robust available evidence that smoke-free laws have a significant impact on rates of heart disease, childhood asthma, complications in pregnancy, and stroke. This evidence has been used to support policy debate and decision-making in Scotland, the rest of the UK, and around the world, providing guidance for other countries to implement similar legislation.

In 2011, the WHO released the document 'Making Cities Smoke-free' addressed to mayors of cities around the world. The 2008 report by Pell's team was the only UK rereference cited to demonstrate the benefit of measuring indicators of worker health pre- and post-ban.

This research, led by Professor Jill Pell of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, has also provided a focal point for an extended and high profile global public debate over smoking legislation. As an example, the Wall Street Journal, with a daily circulation of 2.1 million readers, cited the team’s findings in its coverage of the smoking ban debate in the USA in 2008, stating that "a new study from Scotland provides what public-health experts in the US say is the strongest evidence yet that public bans on smoking being debated in several locales – improve health by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke".

The original research findings underpin health advice and campaigns on the dangers of smoking published by the World Health Organization, World Heart Federation and other international bodies. Pell’s team also examined the effects of the smoke-free law on rates of childhood asthma and pregnancy complications in Scotland, showing that childhood asthma admissions had been increasing by about 5% each year prior to the introduction of the smoke-free law, but were reduced by 18% per year following introduction of the legislation. More recently, Pell’s team was the first to show a reduction in the incidence of cerebral infarction (which accounts for 50% of all strokes) as a result of the smoke-free law.

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