Evidence Grows of How Smoking Harms Reproductive, Child Health

November 05, 2012

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The U.S. Surgeon General and other public health experts have found that smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body and harms health at every stage of life.  Increasingly, we are learning of the many ways that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke harm reproductive and child health.

Both smoking and secondhand smoke have been found to cause low-birth-weight and sudden infant death syndrome.  Smoking also causes infertility, miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and other pregnancy complications.

Several recent studies have added new evidence of how smoking harms reproductive and child health:

Another study, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that in many low and middle-income countries, reproductive-age women have high rates both of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. The study, based on data from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, found that Russia had the highest rate of smoking among reproductive-age women at 30.8 percent, while Bangladesh and India had high rates of smokeless tobacco use at 20.1 percent and 14.9 percent respectively.

Secondhand smoke exposure at home or in workplaces was common in all 14 countries.  Workplace exposure was lowest at 11 percent in Uruguay, which has a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law, and highest at 53 percent in Egypt.

These findings underscore the threat that smoking and secondhand smoke pose to reproductive and child health around the world. They also demonstrate the need for countries to implement proven measures to reduce smoking and secondhand smoke exposure, including higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws and large, graphic health warnings.

For pregnant women who smoke, the message is clear: The sooner you quit, the healthier you and your baby will be.  Even better, quit before getting pregnant.  Get help and support by talking to your health care provider or calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW in the United States.