Now is the time to double down on supporting pregnant women on their journey to quit smoking

Cincinnati, we need to get serious about eliminating smoking during pregnancy. This is not a new problem. And, tackling any addiction is a tough battle to fight. But, put simply, tobacco use during pregnancy is the most modifiable risk factor for preterm birth[1].

Here is what we know:

  • This scale of this problem is enormous. 1 in 10 women in Hamilton County report smoking during pregnancy in 2016. There is strong evidence that this number is dramatically under-reported and that the reality is closer to 1 in 6 women. That means that close to 2,000 pregnant women need help quitting each year[2].
  • The burden of this problem is not evenly distributed. There is significant geographic disparity with women in Lower Price Hill, the West End and Avondale being among those most likely to smoke during pregnancy. These neighborhoods are also those with some of the highest infant mortality rates in the city. In some neighborhoods, more than 1 in 3 pregnant women are smokers[3].
  • Something can be done. Thanks to the collective efforts of dozens of partners, maternal smoking has dropped by 19% in the past 5 years. But, that is only a start. Successful, evidence-based strategies exist to help women quit smoking that are not being consistently or routinely offered in Cincinnati.

Our community has a unique opportunity right now to make an impact on this issue. Ohio’s State Health Improvement Plan recently identified support for smoking cessation as a key strategy to reduce infant deaths. Interact for Health recently announced that reducing smoking in low-income communities will be a top funding priority. And, the Greater Cincinnati Health Collaborative has called out smoking reduction as one of their top strategies for improving community health. We can and should leverage this energy to make a difference on an issue that has plagued us for too long.

Over the next year, Cradle Cincinnati plans to invest in reducing smoking during pregnancy through four strategies:

  • A place-based approach in one neighborhood with high rates of smoking. Our team will be working directly with family leaders from one neighborhood this year to create new solutions side by side with women who want to quit smoking.
  • Support during prenatal care. We will spread the evidence-based use of the 5A’s of smoking cessation throughout prenatal care systems in Cincinnati – ensuring that every woman is screened for tobacco use and given meaningful support to quit.
  • Promotion of 1-800-Quit-Now. Starting today, you will see new advertisements on buses throughout town encouraging women to get proven one-on-one phone support during pregnancy.
  • Policy change. We will be working with local policymakers to implement changes that could make a non-smoking lifestyle the easiest choice.

A woman who smokes throughout her pregnancy is nearly twice as likely to suffer an infant death. In fact, smoking plays a contributing role in all three leading causes of infant death in Hamilton County: preterm birth, birth defects and sleep-related deaths. It is one of the most preventable causes of infant death. This is a difficult issue to take on and an easy one to sweep under the rug. But, if we are serious about reducing infant deaths, we must get serious about smoking. The time to act is now. Join us.

[1] ACOG

[2] Hall, 2016, Journal of Perinatology

[3] Ohio Vital Statistics