Parenthood Offers Motivation to Quit Smoking

Postpartum Period Is Prime Time to Teach New Parents About Smoking Cessation, Researchers Say

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on February 01, 2010
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Feb. 1, 2010 -- With some gentle prodding, new parents can be motivated to make more attempts to quit smoking, a new study says.

The trick seems to be getting pregnant women and new moms and dads to understand the dangers of secondhand smoke to unborn and newborn babies, researchers say in the March issue of Pediatrics, which appeared online Feb. 1.

The researchers, including Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, and colleagues from Harvard Medical School, enrolled 101 parents of newborns delivered at Massachusetts General Hospital from February 2005 through April 2006. All participants were smokers or had recently quit.

The participants were randomly assigned to two groups. Half received no contact between the initial survey to participate in the study and a follow-up survey three months later.

The other half received in-person counseling during the postpartum hospital stay and an invitation to enroll in a specialized telephone counseling program. Letters also were sent to the newborn’s pediatrician, the parents’ primary care providers, and the mother’s obstetrician about the parents’ smoking status and tips to help the parent quit.

Of current smokers, 64% of those in the group receiving advice and phone help reported cessation attempts lasting 24 hours, compared to only 18% in the comparison group. The researchers write that the postpartum hospital stay “presents an opportunity to identify both mothers and fathers and both current smokers and recent quitters and connect them with tobacco treatment services in the health care setting and the community.

“The newborn engenders in both parents an overwhelming need to protect it from harm, making the immediate postpartum period a potential teachable moment for motivating smoking cessation,” the authors write. “Linking parents to proactive telephone counseling may be a good way to deliver ongoing counseling support to young parents, given their reluctance to travel for repeated face-to-face counseling sessions.”

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News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Winickoff, J. Pediatrics, March 2010; vol 125: no 3.

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