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Smoking bans can lead to major improvements in childhood asthma, and potentially save lives, a new study shows.
The number of children hospitalized for life-threatening asthma episodes fell 18% in the first year after Scotland’s smoke-free law took effect in March 2006, according to a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

That reduction is particularly impressive, given that hospital admissions for asthma had been increasing an average of 5% a year in the six years leading up to the ban, which ended smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants, says study author Jill Pell.

Beyond cleaning the air, Pell says, the law made many more people aware of the need to quit smoking or never start. Use of nicotine-replacement products and calls to quit-smoking lines both went up just before the ban took effect, she says.

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