Tobacco, pregnancy, and the costs of cigarettes

Pregnant women who smoke increase the risk of poor birth outcomes for themselves and their babies. These risks include placental abruptions, low birthweight babies, small for gestational age babies, oral clefts, and certain heart defects.1

Georgia birth certificates show that about 6% of mothers smoke during pregnancy. However, due to the stigma associated with smoking during pregnancy, one study has found that many women falsely deny that they smoke.   Research from Ohio found that only about half of the smoking mothers in their study truthfully reported their smoking status on their infants’ birth certificates; 8.6% of mothers reported smoking in the third trimester of pregnancy on their baby’s birth certificate, but 16.5% had high levels of nicotine in their urine.2 Thus, it is likely that the number of Georgia women who smoke during pregnancy is in reality higher than birth certificate data shows.

Maternal smoking has also been associated with adverse health outcomes for the baby even after birth, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In 2014, 33% of Georgia babies who died of SIDS or other sleep-related causes had mothers who acknowledged smoking on their infant’s birth certificate.3

Most of our smoking mothers picked up the habit in their youth, as research shows that 90% of smokers began smoking as a teen.4.

An effective way to curb teen usage is through a higher price for tobacco products. When the cost of cigarettes increase, the demand for cigarettes decreases, particularly among teens.5

One of the primary ways to increase the price of cigarettes is through taxes. Nationally, the average state tax on a single pack of cigarettes is $1.69. Georgia has only a $0.37 tax on a single pack of cigarettes, less than all states except Virginia and Missouri. Furthermore, Georgia has not increased its tobacco tax in over 10 years.6 Raising the tobacco tax in Georgia would deter teens from ever picking up their first cigarette and could even reduce demand among adults, ultimately reducing the number of babies born to smokers, giving them and their mothers healthier lives.

2016 State of the State of Maternal & Infant Health in Georgia Report Published

Atlanta, Georgia – September 29, 2016 – Today, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (“HMHB”) publishes their second State of the State of Maternal & Infant Health in Georgia report.

As a service to many interested private and public stakeholders, HMHB has summarized pertinent health data in the following areas: prenatal care, fetal mortality, live births, premature and low birthweight babies, infant mortality, maternal disease, maternal obesity, maternal use of alcohol and illicit drugs, maternal mortality, postpartum visits, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and breastfeeding. An executive summary and the full report can be found online.

“The goal is to illuminate where we have been, where we are now, and what we can do through collaborative action,” said author and HMHB Board member, Merrilee Gober, RN, BSN, JD. “The current state of Georgia’s maternal and infant health presents ongoing challenges as well as signs of promise for the future.”

“Based on the most current data available, there is reason to be hopeful as teen pregnancy rates continue to improve and Georgia continues to beat the national averages for maternal smoking, alcohol and apparent illicit drug use during pregnancy,” shared Gober.

Areas of challenge include unintended pregnancies, the prevalence of low birthweight infants, maternal mortality and duration of breastfeeding. The report demonstrates that there are often disparities by age, education, race/ethnicity, geographic location and insurance/payment type.

HMHB concludes this report with recommendations in four key implementation areas: (1) prenatal care; (2) legislation; (3) public/private partnerships, and (4) data collection and needs assessment.

“The evidence-based recommendations aim to improve the accuracy of future data as well as the health outcomes for many of Georgia’s mothers and babies,” explains HMHB executive director, Elise Blasingame. “It is critical that we work in partnership to address these issues throughout Georgia. We hope this report will serve as a catalyst for that important collaboration.”

Since 1973, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia has served as the statewide voice for improved maternal and infant health and access to healthcare.