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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 11:02 GMT
'Men harm smoke-free pregnancy'
smoking couple
Men who smoke may undermine their partner's good intentions
The resolve of women who give up smoking during pregnancy to protect their baby can be undermined by partners who refuse to do the same.

A study by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's GP Research Group found that many women were highly motivated to stop smoking during pregnancy.

Smoking during pregnancy has been associated with miscarriage, premature birth, low birthweight and even a higher incidence of cot death.

However, if the partner continues to smoke, it may be reducing the woman's chances of success.

Even simply smoking at the bottom of the garden out of sight could undermine her efforts, the researchers found.

'Do as I say, not as I do'

Sue Ziebland, from the research group, said: "Men can really help their partners to give up smoking during pregnancy and remain smoke-free - and the best support they can give is to quit themselves.

Smoking and pregnancy: Increased risks
Premature birth
Low birthweight
Sudden infant death syndrome
Bleeding during pregnancy
"The women we interviewed felt unsupported by men's 'Do as I say, not as I do' attitude when their partners continued to smoke, but encouraged them to stop."

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 19 pregnant women whose partners were smokers.

Some of the men involved demanded their partners gave up, but stoutly refused to do so themselves.

Others pretended to give up, but secretly kept smoking.

This study suggests that pregnancy is an ideal time for both parents to try to kick the habit and that couples are more likely to succeed if they make a joint attempt

Professor Gordon McVie, Cancer Research Campaign
Sir Paul Nurse, director general of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said there were plenty of other benefits to giving up.

He said: "By quitting before your 35th birthday, you avoid nearly all the risk of being killed by tobacco.

"Some 70% of adult smokers say that they would like to quit and most couples have their first pregnancies at an age where there is ample opportunity to recover from most of the damage caused by youthful cigarette smoking."

Tobacco use kills around 120,000 people in the UK every year, causing or contributing to various cancers, heart disease and stroke.

Half of all regular smokers will be killed by their habit.

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "This study suggests that pregnancy is an ideal time for both parents to try to kick the habit and that couples are more likely to succeed if they make a joint attempt."

The government has invested millions in services to help smokers quit.

Fathers-to-be who would like to stop smoking can speak to trained counsellors at the Dad's Quitline on 0800 002211.

There is also an NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 1699169.

See also:

11 Sep 00 | Health
Smoking addiction 'sets in early'
22 Aug 01 | Health
Just trying to quit boosts health
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