Alarm over pregnant smokers

A NATIONAL report released yesterday showed that 22.2 per cent of pregnant Tasmanians smoked, compared with 13.9 per cent of pregnant women Australia-wide.

Cancer Council Tasmania chief executive Penny Egan said the organisation was very concerned with the state's higher proportion of pregnant smokers, and that was why the organisation had awarded its latest fellowship to a research project which aims to help pregnant women quit smoking.

When Dr Mai Frandsen was awarded the fellowship in June, she revealed that about 30 per cent of Northern Tasmanian mothers smoked while pregnant.

The National Health Performance Authority report, Healthy Communities: Child and Maternal Health, showed that across Australia, between 2009 and 2011, the percentage of women who gave birth and smoked during pregnancy ranged from 1.8 per cent in Sydney's Northern Shore and Beaches area, to 33.1 per cent in Far West New South Wales.

Mrs Egan said lower economic status in Tasmania might be a factor with the higher rate of pregnant smokers in the state.

"They tend to be the ones who continue to smoke during pregnancy and we are trying to target a number of those areas in general, to reduce smoking rates," she said.

Mrs Egan said encouraging smokers to quit was also about the family environment and not just about pregnant women who smoked.

"Tasmanian rates are very high, compared to the rest of Australia, but they are coming down," she said.

"We want them to keep on declining.

"We want to give every unborn child a good chance at a healthy life and a healthy birth weight, as we try to minimise those complications during birth, and a whole range of other issues that go with someone being pregnant."

Mrs Egan encouraged smokers to call Quitline Tasmania for help on 137 848.

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