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The introduction of a smoking ban in Scotland has led to a 10 percent reduction in the number of premature and low birthweight babies, according to a study.

Researchers at Glasgow University said the ban, introduced in Scotland six years ago, had reduced the number of babies born before they reach full term.

The study also found the number of mothers who smoked fell from 25.4 percent to 18.8 percent after the smoking laws were introduced.

Scotland was the first country in the UK to ban smoking in public places, in March 2006. It was followed by England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007.

Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to complications in pregnancy, such as low birthweight and restricted foetal growth.

The research team at the university's Institute of Health and Wellbeing looked at more than 700,000 single-baby births before and after the introduction of the ban.

The researchers found there was a drop of more than 10 percent in the overall number of babies born "pre-term", defined as delivery before 37 weeks' gestation, after the ban.

"The potential for tobacco control legislation to have a positive effect on health is becoming increasingly clear," said Prof Jill Pell, who led the study.

"These findings add to the growing evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation and support the adoption of such legislation in other countries, which have yet to implement smoking bans."

She added: "While survival rates for pre-term deliveries have improved over the years, infants are still at risk of developing long-term health problems, so any intervention that can reduce the risk of pre-term delivery has the potential to produce important public health benefits."

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of anti-tobacco charity Ash Scotland, welcomed the research.

"This is one more addition to a growing body of evidence, which demonstrates that Scotland's strategic and comprehensive approach to tobacco control is actively improving the health and lives of our nation," she said in a statement.

"The study reaffirms that smoke-free laws have helped to protect people from the harms of tobacco and tobacco smoke."