Department of Health Urges Pregnant Women and New Moms To Quit Smoking in Honor of Mother's Day

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 5, 2010) – Happy Mother's Day. Now put down that cigarette.

In honor of Mother's Day, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) is urging all women of childbearing age, especially pregnant women and new mothers, to quit smoking so that their babies will not suffer health concerns from low birth weight to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and other diseases

To assist these women, DOH strongly encourages smokers to seek out smoking cessation assistance by talking to their health care providers or by calling the New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487).

"If you're a pregnant woman who smokes, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to protect your child," said New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "According to the Surgeon General's Report on Women and Smoking, quitting smoking can reduce the risks of respiratory illness, miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths. Additionally, smoking can decrease fertility, so you also should quit if you would like to become pregnant."

Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are about 30 percent more likely to be born prematurely. They also weigh an average of 200 grams less than infants born to women who do not smoke.

Smoking during and after pregnancy also causes SIDS. Compared with unexposed infants, babies exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are at twice the risk for SIDS, and babies whose mothers smoked before and after birth are at three to four times greater risk.

"Nicotine from cigarettes can pass through breast milk to infants," Commissioner Daines said. "Mothers should continue to breastfeed because of the protective qualities in breast milk. The best decision is to quit or cut down on cigarette use and avoid exposing infants to secondhand smoke. Breast milk helps protect breastfed infants from respiratory illnesses, ear infections and other illnesses. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for 12 months or longer will help continue to provide protection for baby."

"While it's best to quit smoking before becoming pregnant, it's never too late to quit," said Jeffrey G. Willett, Ph.D., Director of the New York Tobacco Control Program. "So, whether you're a new mom, a woman trying to become pregnant, or you're already expecting, there are compelling reasons to call the Smokers' Quitline or to talk to your health care provider about quitting."

The New York State Smokers' Quitline offers free counseling and nicotine medications to help individuals quit smoking successfully. New Yorkers can call the Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487). Call hours are: Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Smokers also can receive information through the Quitline's Web site (www.nysmokefree.com).

Additionally, New York Medicaid covers smoking cessation counseling for pregnant women and women up to six months after birth. Medicaid smoking cessation counseling is in addition to Medicaid-covered benefits for prescriptions and over-the-counter smoking cessation products. You can get more information on Medicaid by visiting http://www.nyhealth.gov/health_care/medicaid/.

For additional information about quitting smoking, please visit the DOH's Web site at www.nyhealth.gov or call the toll-free NYS Smokers Quitline at 1-866-697-8487.