Editorial:Too many women risk their babies' health by smoking
09/23/2013 - The Herald-Dispatch
HUNTINGTON - It's difficult to imagine that so many pregnant women in West Virginia would put their babies' health at risk, but many still do -- by smoking tobacco during their pregnancies.
That point was made this week by Dr. Brenda Dawley, an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Joan C. Edwards Schools of Medicine at Marshall University.
Speaking at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Integrated Behavioral Health Conference in Charleston, Dawley said more than a third of pregnant women in West Virginia smoke during their pregnancies.
About a dozen years ago, half of the state's pregnant women were smoking, but a drop to about 35 percent remains "depressing," she said, and the decrease in that smoking rate has not been as pronounced in West Virginia as it has been in most other states.
The threats to these women's babies are many, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage and their babies are more prone to be born too early, have a low birth weight and at greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and certain birth defects.
The medical community, of course, should work hard to convince pregnant women to give up smoking and help them do it. Intensified education efforts also could help. Dawley also noted that because of relatively low state taxes, cigarettes are cheaper in West Virginia than many other states. That factor might be an issue that the state's lawmakers should address by raising the cigarette tax.
All of those efforts could combine to persuade more pregnant women to give up tobacco and give their babies better odds of being healthy.