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Achieving a smokefree pregnancy: can e-cigarettes help? - Jo Locker

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Use of electronic cigarettes continues to rise and midwives and health visitors are being increasingly asked for advice in relation to their use during pregnancy. This blog provides some top line messages from a new briefing with further helpful information. The writer, Jo locker, is tobacco control programme manager and lead for smokefree pregnancy at Public Health England.

Should pregnant women who smoke use electronic cigarettes to help them quit and stay smokefree?

Rates of smoking in pregnancy have declined in England in recent years, however it remains a serious public health issue.

Nearly 11% of women report smoking at the time of delivery, although there are significant differences across the country, with rates of less than 2% some communities, but up to 25% in others.

This means that around 70,000 babies are born each year to mothers who smoke.

Recent data estimates that there are around 2.8 million electronic cigarette users in Great Britain, with roughly half no longer smoking tobacco cigarettes at all. They have become the most popular stop smoking aid, with many smokers reporting they find them helpful when trying to quit.

Pregnant women are also known to be using electronic cigarettes as a replacement for smoking, and midwives and health visitors are increasingly being be asked for advice.

The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group  has produced a short briefing to assist health professionals in responding to some of the most frequently asked questions. It also provides a summary of the current research evidence in this area. Key messages include:

  • Stopping smoking is one of the best things a woman and her partner can do to protect the health of their baby through pregnancy and beyond
  • Although not completely risk free, electronic cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoking for users, with no known risks to bystanders
  • Electronic cigarettes do not contain carbon monoxide (CO) or many of the other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes
  • While licensed nicotine replacement products are the recommended option, if a pregnant woman chooses to use an electronic cigarette and if that helps her to stay smokefree, she should not be discouraged from doing so

This briefing is available online at: Use of Electronic Cigarettes in pregnancy: A guide for midwives and other health professionals.

Further information on supporting pregnant women to achieve a smokefree pregnancy can be found here and a new online training module will be launched on Royal College of Midwives iLearn next month.

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