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Husbands' Tobacco Habits Turn Pregnant Women Into Passive Smokers

Pregnant women are always urged to stop smoking during pregnancy, but the people around them should stop lighting up too.

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By Bryan Le

03/06/14

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A recent Australian study has revealed that 55 percent of non-smoking pregnant women are passive smokers because a member of their household - usually their partner - refuses to drop the habit.

"Tobacco smoke has been found to have a detrimental effect on the fetus when pregnant women are under the effect of it," said researcher Juanjo Aurrekoetxea. "Passive tobacco increases the risk of miscarriage. Nevertheless, the problem mainly affects the child's development; they tend to be smaller at birth and have lower cognitive development. In addition, and although to a lesser extent, these infants have a greater sudden death rate, and a greater risk of suffering cancer and respiratory disease in childhood as well."

Around 10 percent of women smokers kick the habit once they become pregnant, but 22 percent of all pregnant women continue smoking or are incidental passive smokers.

Researchers kept tabs on the nicotine levels in the non-smoking pregnant women by measuring the cotinine levels in their urine and found that of the 55 percent of non-smoking pregnant women, 38.5 percent were exposed to smoke during leisure activities such as hanging out at bars or restaurants, and 24.7 percent were exposed via their smoker partner at home. While the population of women who are passive smokers because of their partner is smaller, the concentrations are much higher.

"The greatest exposure happens when the woman's partner smokes at home," said Aurrekoetxea. "The home is the main source of exposure to tobacco smoke. People everywhere are saying tobacco is bad and that passive exposure is also bad, but people still fail to take the necessary measures not to smoke, or not to force pregnant women to breathe tobacco smoke either."

Interestingly, during the course of the 2004 to 2008 study, smoking bans were put into place in 2006 and showed almost immediate benefits. "Specifically, the level of cotinine in the pregnant women analyzed in the study fell 16 percent," explains Aurrekoetxea. "Well, it's something, and shows that measures of this type are effective."

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