Report: At Least One in Four Pregnant Women in Kentucky Smoke

FRANKFORT, KY- A study from Kentucky Youth Advocates almost 14,000 pregnant women reported smoking in Kentucky in 2005 – putting themselves and their babies at risk for low fetal growth, low birth weight, preterm delivery, and a host of other problems. Advocates gathered in Frankfort today to highlight a proven solution – raising the cigarette excise tax. Studies show that pregnant women are highly responsive to cigarette cost increases. For every 10% increase in price, smoking rates among pregnant women fall by 7%.

An issue brief released today by Kentucky Youth Advocates entitled “Tobacco Use among Pregnant Women in Kentucky” finds that as many as 25 percent of pregnant women in Kentucky smoke. The brief uses county by county data on smoking and pregnancy to shed light on Kentucky’s problem and posit solutions including: raising the cigarette excise tax, increasing access to tobacco cessation programs, and strengthening youth smoking prevention efforts.

Study findings include the following:

- Kentucky’s rate of smoking during pregnancy (25.4% in 2004-2005) is more than double U.S. rates (10.7% among states with the unrevised birth certificate and 12.4% among states with the revised birth certificate).
- Even the rates in the best Kentucky counties – Fayette and Oldham – were higher than the U.S. rates.
- Rates of smoking during pregnancy improve slightly over the course of the pregnancy – 24.8% of babies were born to mothers who smoked during the 1st trimester, 23.0% to mothers smoking in the 2nd trimester, and 22.6% to mothers smoking in the third trimester.
- Rates of low-weight births were higher among women who smoked during pregnancy (12.7%) than among non-smokers (8.3%).

“By raising Kentucky’s tobacco tax to one dollar, not only will women and their developing babies be healthier, but Kentucky will save an estimated $21.5 million on health related costs in just five years”, said Lacey McNary, Deputy Director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

Representatives from the following organizations spoke at the press conference today, highlighting the need for an increased tobacco tax:

Kentucky Association of Family Practice
Kentucky Council of Churches
Kentucky Domestic Violence Association
Kentucky Medical Association
Kentucky Youth Advocates
March of Dimes

“We have a real opportunity to help improve the health of pregnant women in Kentucky by raising the price of cigarettes,” said Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, Executive Director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, an organization of eleven Christian denominations in Kentucky, Protestant and Catholic, having a total membership of about 800,000 Christians. “If we increase the price of cigarettes by at least 70 cents, there will be huge benefits in terms of better health, more revenue for the state, and reduced health costs to families and the state. Let’s seize this opportunity.”

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