EUGENE, Ore. — Lane County health managers say that 16% of women who are pregnant in Lane County smoke, and about one in four of that group do so during their first trimester. That’s about six percent higher than other areas around the state of Oregon and significantly higher than all the national averages despite the obvious health complications.
“The first time I remember looking at data related to pregnancy was when we were looking at our infant mortality rates and we ran the numbers there and we were surprised by how high they were and we were surprised to see that we were higher than the state,” said Jennifer Jordan, a senior community health analyst with LCPH.
Lane County health workers say the U.S. spent upwards of six billion dollars last year on pre-term complicated births. In this day and age, with so much information about the damaging effects of tobacco and nicotine, the question is simply: why?
“Pregnant women who smoke are at higher risk of having low birth weight babies. Babies that don’t do as well. Babies that are sometimes born early or too small,” said Christine Heritage, a midwife with Peacehealth.
Smoking is also quite the money eater. Jennifer Jordan, a senior community health analyst with LCPH said the issue isn’t just the money used to purchase cigarettes, but the medical care required to help infants with developmental issues from smoking, “Low birth weight babies are some of the most expensive babies that are born and certainly have a huge impact on the cost of care.”
It may have something to do with the high poverty rate here in Lane County.
“What we see in lane county is that we have a higher poverty rate than other counties in the state and they do see a correlation between the high poverty rates and the rate of smoking,” said Laurie Steinbruck, a community service worker with Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
“A lot of the women we see here at WIC are aware of some of the risks of smoking in terms of their unborn infant, but they aren’t aware of all of the risks,” said Steinbruck.
So for health managers, the best solution continues to be education and prevention. Not just preventative care, but stopping smoking before it starts.
“Changing those social norms around tobacco use by letting our local legislators know that we’re in support of tobacco control policies because we know it has an impact on our own bottom line here as a community,” said Jordan.
Because this group includes a large amount of teens, the department increased education efforts for the youth demographic.