Despite the warning in the “Back to Sleep” campaign that smoking may increase the risk of SIDS, researchers in England found that the anti-smoking warning campaign had no impact on mothers who already smoked (though it did seem to deter some mothers from starting). Smokers followed the other SIDS risk reduction suggestions, such as switching their baby’s sleeping position from front to back, but continued to smoke. I’m surprised at these results since, normally, mothers would never do anything to deliberately harm their infant. I conclude, therefore, that concerning smoking a mother’s addiction can override her intuition. When it comes to smoking too many people still feel they’ll beat the odds: “It just can’t happen to me.” “It just can’t happen to my baby.”
From this mind-set we can learn the following things: First, there must be laws to protect infants who can’t help themselves and parents who can’t, or won’t. Also, there needs to be support resources to help parents, especially mothers, quit smoking. Finally, information on how smoking hurts babies needs to reach pre-smokers; namely teens (infants of teen mothers are at higher risk of SIDS). This tactic is being tried in New Zealand with the KIDS-AGAINST-SIDS campaign, in which teens are taught the hazards of smoking before they get pregnant or start smoking. The surgeon general’s 1994 report “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People” concludes that if people don’t start smoking as adolescents, most will never become smokers.
If SIDS parents, health-care professionals, and other concerned citizens start to scream louder than the tobacco executives, we may soon see effective warning labels, public health campaigns, and a decrease in parental smoking. Researchers estimate that if maternal smoking could be eliminated altogether, the overall infant death rate could be reduced by ten percent and the SIDS rate by twenty-seven percent.
Pamphlets and information on how to quit smoking can be obtained from these resources:
American Cancer Society
American Lung Association
A Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Quit Smoking By Richard A. Windsor and Dianne Smith
Available through your library or from bookstores, this book contains a ten-day, twenty-step workbook on practical ways to quit smoking.