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Pregnant smokers told: It’s never too late to quit

Pregnant smokers told: ‘It’s never too late to quit’ by new Quitline campaign

Pregnant women who smoke are being told that it’s never too late to quit to help their baby’s health.

A new television advertising campaign, run by respected smoking cessation service the Quitline, is focusing on New Zealand’s 50,000 pregnant women to try and bring home the message that smoking is bad for both them – and their baby.

Dr Peter Martin, Quitline medical advisor, said that overall one in three women aged 25-34 smoke. For Māori and Pacific women, the figure is one in two.

“We know this is a very difficult issue for pregnant smokers, so we’re trying to get home the message that it’s never too late,” said Dr Martin.

“Giving up before you become pregnant is the ideal, but a lot of a baby’s growth happens after the first trimester. So we’d say the earlier the better, but quitting part way through is better than not at all.”

Poisons in cigarettes enter the bloodstream of both the mother and the unborn baby, leading to an increased chance of a range of potential health problems, including:

• Premature labour
• Stress during labour, leading to a more complicated birth
• Low birth weight, making later health problems more likely (low birth weight does not mean an easier labour)
• Childhood illnesses such as ear infections, asthma and bronchitis
• Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death)

The advertisement features Quitline advisors offering support to pregnant smokers, and is running throughout June. As well as practical and emotional support, smokers can get subsidised nicotine patches, lozenges or gum (NRT) from the Quitline to help them give up. Dr Martin said that giving NRT to pregnant smokers was controversial, but preferable to continued smoking.

“NRT can mean that the foetus is exposed to some nicotine, but at a much lower level than from a cigarette – and of course doesn’t also include the 5,000 or so poisons that tobacco contains. So if NRT helps a pregnant woman to give up, I’d personally advise it to gain the long-term benefit for her and her baby.”

Last year 53,000 smokers registered for help with the Quitline, which can be reached on 0800 778 778.


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