Citizens for Clean Air in Apartments

Tobacco During Pregnancy Worse Than Crack Cocaine

Excerpts from Tobacco, alcohol worse than crack cocaine during pregnancy. Experts say use of legal drugs creates untreatable conditions.

The abuse of illicit drugs like crack cocaine by pregnant women has received more attention, but experts say the common, legal drugs -- alcohol and nicotine -- present some of the greatest dangers to unborn babies. "It's our legal substances that are killing us," said Harvey Siegal, director of substance abuse treatment programs at Wright State University.

"The biggest substance abuse we have to deal with is not crack, it's not cocaine, it's not alcohol -- it's smoking," said Dr. Jeffrey King, medical director for Born Free, Miami Valley Hospital's program for pregnant substance abusers. "I'll deal with the crack and the alcohol if we could get people to stop smoking."

Cigarette smoking by pregnant women can cause spontaneous abortion, prematurity, sudden infant death syndrome, and asthma and other respiratory problems for babies, King noted. "We see younger and younger girls smoking and smoking regularly," he said. "Many smoke through pregnancy after pregnancy."

According to the 1992 National Pregnancy and Health Survey, 20.4 percent of pregnant women smoked sometime during their pregnancy. Pregnant white women had the highest smoking rate at 24.4 percent, compared with 19.8 percent for blacks and 5.8 percent for Hispanics. National studies have blamed smoking by pregnant women for 141,000 spontaneous abortions, 61,000 low-birth-weight deliveries, 1,200-2,200 sudden infant deaths and 4,800 perinatal deaths every year.

King believes many pregnant women don't realize the dangers of smoking and drinking, despite all the publicity about them. One study found that teens knew about fetal alcohol syndrome, but erroneously believed it is treatable.

Source(s): Tom Beyerlein, [11/15/98] Cox News Service

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