Pregnant women ignore tobacco warning
Many women in the US are not giving up smoking when they become pregnant despite concerted health campaigns and a general decline in the number of women smokers across the country, researchers have shown.
They say that the findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, should alert other countries that it is more effective to prevent people from starting smoking than to try to help them give up.
The researchers from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta surveyed nearly 200,000 women of childbearing age between 1987 and 1996.
They found that there was a significant drop in the number of women smokers over the 10-year period.
But what worries the researchers is that from their analysis, the drop was due to fewer women starting smoking and not women giving up when they were expecting a baby.
In fact the number of young women smoking during pregnancy is on the increase.
Pregnancy is often seen as one of the most effective times to give up cigarettes.
There is ample evidence of the damage smoking can do to the foetus; it can interfere with normal growth, increase the risks of miscarriage, and bring on premature birth.
So the fact that women often do not give up when they become pregnant underlines the addictive nature of cigarettes.
The researchers think their findings should alert other countries to the difficulties of combating the epidemic of tobacco addiction - especially developing nations in which tobacco marketing efforts and smoking are on the increase.
What is needed, they say, is a broad-based approach to dissuade young people from starting smoking in the first place.
That would include taxing tobacco, introducing anti-smoking policies and restricting tobacco advertising.
And, they say, if women just cannot give up smoking during pregnancy, they should at least try to cut down.