Smoking Has a Rapid Effect on Unborn Babies
A pregnant woman's cigarette habit produces ill effects on her unborn baby so quickly that fetal "breathing" movements, easily measured by doctors, are reduced within five minutes after tobacco smoke enters the mother-to-be's lungs.
Smoking also has been linked to one in 10 infant deaths, according to the nonprofit American Legacy Foundation, and increases the risk for a wide range of reproductive woes including miscarriage, premature delivery and low birth-weight babies.
Fortunately, these fetal and newborn health hazards start to decrease as soon as a pregnant woman quits smoking, says Utah first lady Jacalyn Leavitt. Maternal health in general also is improved.
"The promising thing is that these are preventable health problems and preventable disease," Leavitt says. The U.S. Surgeon General has characterized smoking-relat- ed disease among women as a "full-blown epidemic."
Leavitt is set to join a coalition of wives of governors from more than a dozen other states today in Washington, D.C., to launch the first ever national campaign to reduce smoking during pregnancy.
The program is dubbed "great start" and will feature quit-smoking television ads in all 50 states, along with a 24-hour toll-free "quitline" at 866-667-8278. Leavitt will appear at the end of the upcoming 30-second TV spots airing in Utah to encourage women to consider smoking's negative impact.
National estimates put the number of pregnant woman who smoke at 426,000 each year, according to the foundation. The independent group, based in Washington, D.C., was established as part of the 1998 national tobacco settlement.
In the past, Utah politicians' commitment to smoking cessation has been called into question after Leavitt's husband, Gov. Mike Leavitt, earmarked only a small amount of the state's part of the settlement to anti-tobacco programs.
The state Department of Health says, so far, lawmakers have allocated $3 million for cessation and prevention programs out of the approximately $25 million the state has received thus far in tobacco settlement money.
"To plan, coordinate and run anti-smoking programs that work -- $3 million just isn't going to cut it," said Tamara Lewis of the Coalition for Tobacco Free Utah during a meeting in October.