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Exploring the potential impact of state tobacco control policies on pregnant smokers, the study suggests that bumping cigarette prices by a dollar a pack can translate into a notable increase in the quit rate among pregnant women and new mothers.
"Basically, the thing we find most important is that these cigarette taxes can be used effectively to decrease smoking among pregnant women and women who just gave birth," noted study co-author Sara Markowitz, an associate professor in the department of economics at Emory University in Atlanta.
"And it's not at all surprising, because people respond to prices," she added. "When things are expensive, they buy less of them, and when they're cheap, they buy more."
Markowitz's team, alongside colleagues from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discuss their findings in the early online publication of the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The authors point out that nearly one-quarter of all pregnant women in the United States are smokers, with more than half refusing to quit during their pregnancy.
Not smoking improves the health of mother and child in the short and long term, the study authors said. According to the American Lung Association, smoking while pregnant leads to an estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries, and about 10 percent of all infant deaths.
To gauge how state public policy may affect smoking habits among pregnant women, the authors pored through data concerning nearly 225,500 American women who gave birth between 2000 and 2005.
The woman, who were spread across 29 states and New York City, were tracked during pregnancy and through four months post-delivery.
The results: A dollar increase in cigarette taxes/prices appeared to prompt a nearly 5 percent increase in the probability that a pregnant women would kick the habit by her final trimester (up from about 44 percent to nearly 49 percent).
Similarly, a buck bump in pack cost gave rise to a 4 percent-plus bump in the probability that a new mother would continue to forgo a smoke four months after giving birth (up from about 21 percent to nearly 26 percent).
On another policy front, the research team further found that states that implemented complete bans on smoking in private workplaces also bumped up the probability that a pregnant woman would quit smoking by between 4 percent and 5 percent.
"Now, of course, we recognize that a tax imposes costs on all smokers," said Markowitz. "But if reducing smoking is your desired goal, than raising taxes is an effective way -- probably the most effective way -- to achieve that goal."
Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine in the cardiology division at the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, concurred.
"I haven't seen other studies that specifically looked at pregnant women and smoking before," he noted. "But this work is very well done by a very well-regarded group of people, and I'm not surprised with their finding, which just shows that pregnant women behave like everybody else. Which is to say that increasing the cigarette tax does lead people to quit smoking."
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