Rates of smoking during pregnancy show strong signs of decline

CHARLESTON, WV (NEWS RELEASE) – According to recently released data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health, smoking rates among pregnant women are steadily declining. Provisional numbers from DHHR’s Health Statistics Center indicate the rate of smoking during pregnancy in West Virginia has dropped from 28.2 percent in 2014 to 24.2 percent in 2016. 

“We are encouraged to see the downward trend in smoking rates during pregnancy,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Commissioner and State Health Officer for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. “We believe the steady decline is the result of a comprehensive approach including the work of our community partners and programs such as Home Visitation and RAZE, West Virginia’s highly successful youth anti-smoking program.”

The decreases in smoking rates during pregnancy are similar to decreases in youth smoking rates. Data from the 2015 Youth Tobacco Survey indicate the percentage of West Virginia high school students that smoke has decreased to 16.2 percent from 38.5 percent in 2000. 

Smoking during pregnancy is a key public health indicator because it contributes to premature birth, certain birth defects and infant death.  Families can significantly decrease health risks to their babies by not smoking and not allowing others to smoke around them.

“There is still a significant amount of work to do,” said Gupta.  “West Virginia remains well above the United States rate of 8.4 percent for smoking during pregnancy (2014), but it is vitally important to recognize the rate reduction which mirrors the State’s trend in youth smoking rates.”

As a result of West Virginia’s efforts to decrease smoking, more young women have never smoked, making them more likely to have smoke-free pregnancies.  According to Gupta, public health programs and partners have reinforced these messages during well-woman visits, home visits and health care provider training. 

Work to further improve the smoking rate during pregnancy is being enhanced by the recent launch of the West Virginia Management of Maternal Smoking (MOMS) Initiative, which includes representatives from DHHR programs, the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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