Much like we give a breathalyzer test to those pulled over for suspicion of drinking while driving in the US, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is suggesting that women with babies on the way in the UK are to be tested for carbon monoxide (which is found in cigarettes) to see whether they are smoking while pregnant.
Since many moms-to-be know it's wrong to be smoking while pregnant, but can't kick the habit, the theory is they are prone to lie and say they are not smoking even if they are. The moms found to be smoking while pregnant won't be prosecuted, but instead will be given information on how to effectively quit.
In the UK, approximately 21 percent of pregnant women smoke; in the US the number is estimated to be around 12 percent. Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Exposure to smoke in the womb is also associated with children's hyperactivity and difficulty focusing.
According to the US Public Health Service, if all pregnant women stopped smoking in the US, there would be 10 percent fewer infant deaths, because babies of mothers who smoke are twice as likely to die from SIDS as babies of nonsmokers. Infants whose moms smoke are also 38 percent more likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia during the first year of life than babies of nonsmoking moms, and tend to suffer from more respiratory problems such as asthma or bronchitis and to have problems of the ear, nose and throat.
I'm not usually one to think the government should get involved in our health decisions, but in this case I support the UK's decision to try to encourage women to quit smoking when it can do such harm to children. Someone needs to be standing up for the babies at risk. As someone who has never been a smoker, I'm sure I can't fully understand the addiction, the pull nicotine has over someone, or the impulse to lie about a frowned-upon ciggie habit. All I think is, "Why would you put your unborn child at risk? Don't you want to give him or her every chance at becoming a healthy kid, who will go on to live a long and happy life? If so, stop smoking!" To me, being a mom is about putting your child's needs first, so I know I would do whatever it took to make sure my baby had the cleanest bill of health possible—even if it means giving up something else I love, because in my opinion there is no stronger love than between a parent and a child.
You tell us: Do you smoke? Would you lie about smoking while pregnant? Do you think the government has the right to regulate a pregnant woman's body, if that regulation could protect her unborn child?
Image of pregnant woman with cigarette courtesy of Shutterstock.