Pregnancy, smoking a bad mix

A new program to encourage local young mothers-to-be to quit smoking is a good first step — but much more needs to be done.

A new program to encourage local young mothers-to-be to quit smoking is a good first step — but much more needs to be done.

The five-week education and marketing campaign, Baby Steps, seeks to get pregnant Central Albertans who smoke to butt out. Its intentions are good, and well-targeted. David Thompson Health Region figures show that 31 per cent of pregnant women in Central Alberta smoke; the provincial average is just 20 per cent.

The statistics are unsettling even if these young women weren’t pregnant. Smoking kills, it diminishes quality of life, and it is a multimillion-dollar drain on the health-care system.

But why does it matter particularly if young women smoke while pregnant?

l Babies born of smoking mothers have lower birth weights, thus are more prone to illness and complications.

l Health issues like asthma, intellectual development concerns and birth defects have been linked to smoking.

l Studies suggest that smoking mothers are less likely to carry their child to full term and could suffer health problems of their own during pregnancy, or lose the fetus.

Five young Central Alberta women are at the core of the new marketing program.

Their stories, of being pregnant and quitting smoking, are intended to inspire other young women. The program also offers tips on how to conquer tobacco.

“Cigarette smoking is the single largest modifiable risk factor for low birth weight in Alberta,” said Stephen Duckett, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services.

But it is not enough just to quit smoking during pregnancy. Resuming smoking after you give birth (or allowing other family members to smoke in the home after you give birth) still puts your child in danger.

Passive smoking, through second-hand smoke, poses a number of significant dangers for youngsters.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, passive smoking, particularly in the first year of life, can lead to:

l Sudden infant death syndrome.

l Asthma and other respiratory problems like bronchitis and pneumonia.

l Significantly increased risk of serious infectious disease.

l Markedly higher rates of middle-ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss and other problems.

l Higher cholesterol levels, which later in life can lead to heart problems.

l A greater risk of cancer.

l Nicotine, an addictive drug that gives the user a mild high, can be transferred to the child through breast milk.

Certainly, getting young pregnant women to quit smoking is critical to improving infant health.

But just as clearly, these same young people — and their peers — need to understand that nothing but sadness and sickness will come from smoking at any stage in their lives.

The Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission estimates that 15 per cent of youth aged 15 to 19 in Alberta smoke, and the rate doubles to 30 per cent for 20-to-24-year-olds.

As much as pregnant women need to be the target of any education campaign, it is critical that all young people be put on notice: smoking kills, destroys lives and impacts those around you like ripples from a stone in water.

Baby Steps is a good first step. But Alberta Health Services needs to take it to a broader provincial audience, and to look for ways to keep young people from ever trying tobacco.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read