Are electronic cigarettes a suitable alternative for smoking pregnant mothers?
It is a fact that smoking when pregnant can cause direct harm to your baby. It is also public knowledge that unborn babies consume everything that a mother consumes in order to survive in the womb, and that includes nicotine from a smoking pregnant woman. By quitting smoking during their pregnancy, expectant mothers are significantly increasing the chances of giving birth to healthy babies, yet a number of pregnant women are still smoking. What happens to those mums who simply cannot give up?
In the UK, there are a number of resources that pregnant smokers can turn to for support on quitting smoking. The National Health Service (NHS) published a very extensive online guide on how to give up smoking for good, and they even offer a free DVD called ‘The Smoke-free Pregnancy Support DVD’, which shows pregnant women the free “NHS support available to help [you] stop smoking for good” (www.nhs.uk). But, this still isn’t enough for those women who have tried everything to kick their habit – from hypnotherapy to quitting cold turkey, to even Nicotine Replacement Therapy offered by the NHS.
Yet, as easy as it is to say to a pregnant mother that she must give up smoking instantly to prevent any further harm to her baby, the harsh reality is that a lot of mothers do not and continue to smoke for the duration of their pregnancy. So, how do we combat this pertinent issue? Have we not been told that the stress of not having a cigarette is worse for the baby than having a cigarette? And, if this is true, how do we guide those pregnant women to successfully give up with as little induced stress as possible?
On 28 October 2013, The Daily Mail published an article on “Yes, it’s better than smoking, but that doesn’t make your e-cigarette healthy,” where they talk about ‘vaping’, or using an electronic cigarette as an alternative to smoking cigarettes. “The electronic look-alikes, which are shaped and weighted to feel like the real thing, contain a battery and a heating device – this vaporises a nicotine solution contained in a disposable cartridge, giving the ‘smoker’ a nicotine hit without the harmful tar and carbon monoxide produced when tobacco is burned.”
Electronic cigarettes are sweeping the UK at the moment and can be found in pharmacies including Pharmacare and Londis, as well as independent stores like Nicoventures. They have also claimed to be an alternative to smokers without the harmful toxins and carcinogens. Over 4,000 harmful chemicals can be found in one single cigarette, but electronic cigarettes do not contain smoke, carbon monoxide or tar, some of the most damaging chemicals that could directly harm a baby. BUT, would you be happy to recommend them to a pregnant mother if you knew that she couldn’t give up smoking if her life depended on it?
Electronic cigarettes were licensed and regulated as an aid to quit smoking from 2016, which means they faced stringent checks by a medicine regulatory body called The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Doctors can prescribe them to smokers to help them cut down or quit. Multiple sources state that electronic cigarettes are not recommended for pregnant women as they do still dispense nicotine. But, could electronic cigarettes, arguably, be a more suitable alternative for the minority of smoking pregnant mothers who have been unsuccessful in giving up smoking? Can ‘vaping’ help women smokers to not only calm their cravings for nicotine but also shield their babies from the side-effects of regular cigarette smoke which contains tobacco?
This is a very real issue and something needs to be done to help those highly addicted pregnant mothers give up smoking safely and easily, without causing too much stress to the baby.
Your comments are welcome – feel free to post your opinions on the subject of smoking when pregnant below.
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