Study Finds an Alarming Rate of Tobacco Smoking Among Low-Income Pregnant Women

Despite major public health efforts to educate expectant mothers of the dangers to smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a recent study estimated that 7.2 percent of women in the U.S. who gave birth in 2016 smoked while pregnant. But a new study led by Karen Tabb Dina, a social work professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, finds that the rate of smoking by pregnant women from low-income families may be twice as high, or more.

Researchers surveyed a large group of women at two public health clinics, one urban and one rural who participated in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). They found that 15.1 percent of the women enrolled said that they smoked tobacco when pregnant. Dr. Dina and her team believe the rate may even by higher as they postulate that there were many women who did not admit to the researchers that they smoked.

About 85 percent of the women in the study who smoked while pregnant reported that they were smokers before they became pregnant. And many of those who continued to smoke after becoming pregnant lived with domestic partners or family members who used tobacco. White pregnant women were more likely to smoke tobacco than their Black peers. Women who were overweight, were older than 25, and who had low levels of education were also more likely to smoke tobacco while pregnant.

“These findings suggest that WIC needs to have robust referral and care coordination capacity for smoking-cessation intervention programs,” said co-author Brandon Meline, the director of maternal and child health management at Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

Dr. Dina is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, where she majored in sociology. She earned a master of social work degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in social welfare at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The paper “Prevalence and Correlates of Tobacco Smoking During the Perinatal Period Among Women Enrolled in a Midwestern WIC Program,” was published in the Community Mental Health Journal. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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