Kalapani Essay

299 Words2 Pages
Maternal smoking during pregnancy remains prevalent in many countries despite decades of research testifying to the harm it imposes on the unborn child. Following the 1998 ‘Smoking Kills’ White Paper, which identified ending maternal smoking as a target of future UK government policy, a national telephone helpline was launched to help pregnant mothers devise strategies for quitting smoking. But since one in five mothers in the UK still smoke while pregnant, current policy does not seem to be having a big impact. To gain a better understanding of how policy can get its message across more strongly and target pregnant mothers more effectively, research by Emma Tominey explores how smoking during pregnancy lowers child health at birth. The study confirms that mothers who smoke during pregnancy will have smaller babies – typically 5.4% (6.5oz) lighter than other babies. But around half of this damage is because of ‘unobservable traits’ of the mother – including other health risks she might take, such as drinking alcohol, and her nutrition and knowledge of healthy behaviour. The research also finds that the lasting harm to babies of smoking during pregnancy is greatest if the mothers have a lower level of education. Children born to mothers who left school at the age of 16 suffer double the harm for each cigarette smoked. This suggests that the government must target its anti-smoking policy directly at poorly educated families. And it is important to note that women who do smoke in the early stages of pregnancy should not be written off as being too late to help. Surprisingly, the research shows that the harm to the baby is essentially reduced to zero if the mother quits by month five of the pregnancy. This is much longer than conventional wisdom and previous research have

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