Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK


Fathers smoke through pregnancy

Less than a third of men made any attempt to alter their habit

Only 6% of male smokers give up when their partner is pregnant, despite studies that show an unborn foetus can suffer ill effects from passive smoking, health officials have said.

The figures came from the Health Education Authority (HEA) as Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell announced plans for a major campaign to reduce smoking in pregnancy.

James Westhead, BBC Health Correspondent: " There is evidence that smoking during pregnancy is bad for the unborn child"
The campaign will include the setting up of a phone line smokers can call for advice.

A newborn baby exposed to smoke is more likely to suffer cot death, respiratory problems such as asthma attacks, and infections like bronchitis.

Few partners quit

The HEA report found women said that when they were pregnant, less than a third of their partners changed their smoking habits.

[ image: Smoking during pregnancy can affect the unborn child]
Smoking during pregnancy can affect the unborn child
Those who did were much more likely to cut down or just smoke away from their partner, the survey found.

The survey also found that while 65% of pregnant smokers had been advised to give up by their partners, only 25% found the comments useful.

Midwife Jennifer Percival: "It's hard to give up if your partner smokes"
Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health, said there were all-round benefits in quitting during pregnancy, but that it took some effort to make a successful attempt.

"What these figures mean, basically, is that men are not pulling their weight," he said. "It's really important for women to give up, but it's difficult if the man is smoking about the place."

Advantages to quitting

There were three main advantages in parents giving up, he said.

[ image: Clive Bates said there was shocking ignorance of the dangers of passive smoking]
Clive Bates said there was shocking ignorance of the dangers of passive smoking
"First, the foetus isn't exposed to tobacco toxins in the womb.

"Second, the baby won't be exposed to passive smoking and is therefore less susceptible to cot death and respiratory disease.

"And third, children born to non-smokers are less likely to become smokers themselves."

However, he attacked the lack of knowledge about the dangers of passive smoking.

Ignorance of dangers

A recent report by the Doctor Patient Partnership found that 23% of adults said they did not know that parental smoking could lead to childhood health problems.

Mr Bates pointed to research conducted by the Royal College of Physicians of London that said 17,000 under-fives were admitted to hospital in the UK each year with passive smoking-related disorders.

Other studies have shown that passive smoking doubles the risk of acute respiratory illness in children, and if both mother and father smoke during the pregnancy, the baby is eight times more likely to die of cot death than if neither parent smoke.

"Parents are still largely unaware of the damage their smoking does to their kids," he said.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

23 Mar 99 | Health
Many unaware smoking harms children

10 Mar 99 | Health
Pregnant smokers targeted

10 Dec 98 | Smoking
Public say passive smoking is dangerous

11 Sep 98 | Health
Pregnant women fail to quit smoking

31 May 98 | Latest News
Parents urged to quit smoking

Internet Links

Health Education Authority

Lifesaver - HEA smoking site

Action on Smoking and Health

Department of Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99