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Pregnant smokers get ‘quit line’ help

Pregnancies are difficult enough for women without adding the risk of possible birth defects caused by smoking.

The state Department of Health has added new services to its free Tobacco Quit Line specifically to provide pregnant women an additional resource when they make the decision to quit using tobacco.

Follow-up calls add a level of accountability to the quitting process while new cessation materials further increase the soon-to-be mother’s chances of putting down all tobacco products — at least during the pregnancy.

“Quit coaches” have received additional training to better understand the challenges pregnant women face when trying to quit smoking. In Washington, more than 8,700 babies are born each year to women who smoke during pregnancy.

“Babies with moms who smoke are more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and have health problems like ear infections and pneumonia,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky in a recent press release. “These new resources will make a real difference in the health of pregnant women and their babies.”

The quit line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) requires no insurance and the service provides free help to all pregnant women who smoke. The quit line can supply free nicotine replacement medications when appropriate and approved by the woman’s physician.

In 2006, about 12 percent of pregnant women reported smoking during the last three months of their pregnancy.

Some groups continue to see higher than average rates, particularly young women, 18 percent of whom are less than 25 years old; and women receiving Medicaid benefits and American Indian women, 17 and 23 percent, respectively. More than 40 percent of women who quit smoking during pregnancy start again within months after giving birth.

More than 3,000 Washington women die from tobacco-related diseases every year. For more information about the Tobacco Quit Line, visit www.quitline.com.

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