SAMHSA Tracks Pregnant Smoking by Race

By McCarton Ackerman 05/10/12

The findings—that white women smoke far more than others while pregnant, for example—are meant to help target substance abuse messages to different communities.

The dangers are colorblind. Photo via

A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) tracks smoking and substance use by pregnant women of different racial backgrounds. But why? “Pregnant women of different races and ethnicities may have diverse patterns of substance abuse," says SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "It is essential that we use the findings from this report to develop better ways of getting this key message out to every segment of our community so that no woman or child is endangered by substance use and abuse.” The resulting report found that one in five white women smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days of their pregnancy: 21.8% of pregnant white women reported smoking cigarettes, far higher than the levels among pregnant black women (14.8%) and pregnant hispanic women (6.5%). However, the data suggested that illicit drug use among pregnant black women was significantly higher (7.7%) than in pregnant white women (4.4%) and pregnant hispanic women (3.1%). And while pregnant black and white women reported roughly the same amount of alcohol use during their pregnancy (12.8% and 12.2%), both those figures were significantly higher than those reported by pregnant hispanic women (7.4%). The findings came from the analysis of data from SAMHSA's 2002-2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health—an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country who are over the age of 12.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.