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Could Oklahoma reduce childhood asthma attacks through smoke-free legislation?

Associated Press Published: January 21, 2013

Oklahoma health leaders have long argued that the state's smoking laws serve as a major obstacle in improving the state's health.

Research published Monday might even back them up.

Researchers at Imperial College London released a study Monday that found that introducing laws that ban smoking in enclosed public places can quickly lead to a decrease in the number of children admitted to the hospital suffering asthma attacks.

In Oklahoma, about one in every six children younger than 18 have ever been told by a health professional that he or she has asthma, according to the Oklahoma Asthma Initiative.

And there are about 100,000 children younger than 18 in Oklahoma who currently have asthma, according to the state Health Department.

The London researchers found there was a 12.3 percent fall in hospital admissions for childhood asthma in the first year after laws against smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces came into effect in July 2007.

Before the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces was implemented in England, hospital admissions for children suffering a severe asthma attacks were increasing by 2.2 percent a year, peaking at 26,969 in 2006/2007, the researchers found.

During Oklahoma's next legislative session, which starts in February, state health leaders will try for a fourth time to pass the Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act.

The act would allow cities to pass smoking laws stricter than state law. Health officials argue that only Oklahoma and Tennessee have a law this restrictive.

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