At that time many grumbled, calling it “undemocratic,” but five years on, England is seeing the benefits of banning smoking in public places such as restaurants and pubs, with research revealing a dramatic fall in the number of asthma cases among children.

A study done by Imperial College, London, shows that there was a 12.3 per cent drop in the number of children admitted to hospital with symptoms of asthma in the first year of the ban introduced in July 2007, and the trend has continued, confirming the danger of passive smoking.

The ban had also led to a change in people’s behaviour towards smoking, with parents now less likely to light up in front of their children at home or in other enclosed spaces such as cars, researchers said.

Christopher Millett, who led the study that was published in journal Pediatrics, described the findings as “good news for England.”

It was clear children had benefited from being less exposed to passive smoking, he said.

“We increasingly think it’s because people are adopting smoke-free homes when these smoke-free laws are introduced — and this is because they see the benefits of smoke-free laws in public places such as restaurants, and they increasingly want to adopt them in their home. This benefits children because they’re less likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke,” he noted.

Scientific evidence

Anti-smoking campaigners said it was “great” to see growing scientific evidence of the positive impact of smoke-free legislation.

“We’ve seen the benefits of reducing second-hand smoke exposure; now we need to do more to prevent children and young people from taking up smoking by introducing plain packaging for tobacco,” said Emily Humphreys, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK.