Why Do Pregnant Women Light Up

Smoking rates during pregnancy higher than alcohol and illegal drug use

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Despite the disturbing images being added to cigarette packs and the Surgeon General's warnings against smoking while pregnant, some women are lighting up while pregnant anyway.

A recent report reveals that one in five white women has smoked while pregnant, a rate considerably higher than the rates for black and Hispanic women.

"Don't smoke while pregnant."

The report was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and included women between the ages of 15 and 44 who smoked at least once in the previous month while they were pregnant.

SAMHSA gathered data from 2002 to 2010 from the National Survey on Dug Use and Health, an annual survey of approximately 67,500 people aged 12 and over throughout the U.S.

The rate among white women was 21.8 percent, or about one fifth of all white women included in the study. The rate for black women was 14.2 percent, and among Hispanic women it was 6.5 percent.

Rates of drinking alcohol were a little lower than the smoking rates, with 12.8 of black women and 12.2 percent of white women reporting that they drank while pregnant. Among Hispanic women, the number was 7.4 percent who used alcohol while pregnant.

The rates for using illegal drugs while pregnant were much lower across the board, but the higher risk group for this usage was black women. The researchers found that 7.7 percent of black women had used an illegal drug, compared to 4.4 percent of white women and 3.1 percent of Hispanic women.

"When pregnant women use alcohol, tobacco, or illicit substances they are risking health problems for themselves and poor birth outcomes for their babies,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde.

"It is essential that we use the findings from this report to develop better ways of getting this key message out to every segment of our community so that no woman or child is endangered by substance use and abuse," Hyde said.

The report was published online May 10 at the SAMHSA website. SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 14, 2012
Last Updated:
July 10, 2012