Research Article: Smokefree legislation effects on respiratory and sensory disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Date Published: July 31, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Yolanda Rando-Matos, Mariona Pons-Vigués, María José López, Rodrigo Córdoba, José Luis Ballve-Moreno, Elisa Puigdomènech-Puig, Vega Estíbaliz Benito-López, Olga Lucía Arias-Agudelo, Mercè López-Grau, Anna Guardia-Riera, José Manuel Trujillo, Carlos Martin-Cantera, Alexander Larcombe.


The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to synthesize the available evidence in scientific papers of smokefree legislation effects on respiratory diseases and sensory and respiratory symptoms (cough, phlegm, red eyes, runny nose) among all populations.

Systematic review and meta-analysis were carried out. A search between January 1995 and February 2015 was performed in PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar databases. Inclusion criteria were: 1) original scientific studies about smokefree legislation, 2) Data before and after legislation were collected, and 3) Impact on respiratory and sensory outcomes were assessed. Paired reviewers independently carried out the screening of titles and abstracts, data extraction from full-text articles, and methodological quality assessment.

A total number of 1606 papers were identified. 50 papers were selected, 26 were related to symptoms (23 concerned workers). Most outcomes presented significant decreases in the percentage of people suffering from them, especially in locations with comprehensive measures and during the immediate post-ban period (within the first six months). Four (50%) of the papers concerning pulmonary function reported some significant improvement in expiratory parameters. Significant decreases were described in 13 of the 17 papers evaluating asthma hospital admissions, and there were fewer significant reductions in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease admissions (range 1–36%) than for asthma (5–31%). Six studies regarding different respiratory diseases showed discrepant results, and four papers about mortality reported significant declines in subgroups. Low bias risk was present in 23 (46%) of the studies.

Smokefree legislation appears to improve respiratory and sensory symptoms at short term in workers (the overall effect being greater in comprehensive smokefree legislation in sensory symptoms) and, to a lesser degree, rates of hospitalization for asthma.

Partial Text

Passive exposure to tobacco smoke (also known as exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, second-hand smoke, and passive smoking) multiplies the risk of coronary disease and lung cancer in adults. It also exacerbates asthma and respiratory symptoms, and increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome amongst other health effects[1]. All of the above has led to legislative measures being adopted in order to protect the population’s health in public areas and workplaces[2]. In 1998, in the United States, California was the first to put into practice these measures[3,4], and from 2004 all the members of the European Union have adopted some kind of regulation[5]. There are different types of smokefree legislation (SFL): comprehensive (smoking is prohibited in all closed public areas and workplaces including public transport, bars, and restaurants) and partial (smoking is allowed in some private workplaces, for instance in the hospitality and entertainment sectors)[6]. Numerous studies have been published evaluating the impact of SFL from different perspectives: reduction of exposure to second-hand smoke[7], prevalence of tobacco use (no consistent evidence of a reduction attributable to SFL)[8], cardiovascular mortality (studies related to cardiovascular mortality have conflicting results possibly due to the quality of some of these papers)[9–12], cardiovascular morbidity (consistent evidence of reductions in cardiac events and hospitalizations following implementation of SFL)[13–19], and economic impact (SFL does not adversely affect business revenues or operating costs)[20] amongst others. Most systematic reviews have evaluated cardiovascular effects[15–19], tobacco consumption[8], exposure to second-hand smoke[7], and, in a more heterogeneous manner, respiratory diseases at population levels[8,21]. This last issue is, to the best of our knowledge, the least studied field.

SFL beneficial effects were observed in workers with respect to respiratory and sensory symptomatology. The majority of the studies reported a decrease in hospital admissions for asthma and COPD in all populations (overall population or population stratified by age). Regarding other lung diseases, respiratory mortality, and spirometric parameters, the results are heterogeneous and discrepant. Comprehensive SFL was more commonly evaluated than partial, and periods of assessment ranged from one month to seven years. SFL effect appeared to be greater when the legislation was comprehensive. Due to the reduced number of studies involved in the subgroup analysis, the conclusions of the meta-analysis should be considered with caution. We used a random effect model in order to be able to control heterogeneity. Sensitivity analysis of subgroups showed significant decreases in any respiratory symptoms (both in comprehensive and partial SFL settings) and asthma admissions in comprehensive settings (in adults and children). No significant results were found about the effect of SFL on FEV1, COPD and lung infection admissions. In the rest of the outcomes, either the number of studies involved was very low (FVC, FEF25-75% in comprehensive SFL setting and any sensory symptom in partial SFL setting) or heterogeneity was high despite sensitivity analysis (any sensory symptoms and asthma in a general population in comprehensive SLF settings). All of which hinders extrapolation of data to the whole population, and thus limits the strength of the conclusions drawn.

Results appear to indicate that comprehensive SFL decreases sensory symptomatology more than partial. Almost all the studies reported effectiveness of SFL in respiratory and sensory symptoms in workers and children with significance that decreased in the meta-analysis. There is a majority of studies denoting the effectiveness of SFL in admissions for asthma and COPD in all populations but without statistical significance for the latter in the meta-analysis. There are, however, few studies about respiratory mortality, respiratory infection, and lung function and they do not demonstrate strong effectiveness. It can be concluded, therefore, that it is important to continue conducting research into SFL effectiveness particularly in areas lacking results that can contribute to the available evidence.




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