All my life I was aware that many of the poisons in the cigarette smoke are absorbed into the bloodstream. After birth the baby can still get the poisons through mother’s breast milk. I was sensitive to that maybe because I am a woman and also because I have seen lots of campaigns carrying this message. So when my smoker female friends got pregnant I always tried to convince them to stop smoking as many seemed not to care that these chemicals pass from the mother into the baby’s blood. It’s too risky as the baby may be born underweight, premature or dead. It increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or 'cot death') and the mother also faces a higher risk of having a miscarriage or complications during birth. It makes her feel more breathless and have less energy. Babies of mothers who smoke are more likely to die in the first year of life. If they survive, they have a greater risk of lung infections as well as poor physical and mental development. But I must confess that I never cared about the fact that the smoke that a pregnant woman breathes in from her companion or husband’s cigarettes can affect their unborn child! I never thought of it! This really strikes only when I started my research for the little book. I consider myself more or less informed but that was a surprise. Of course that I was aware that passive smokers that breathe in smoke from another person’s cigarette suffer the same health risks as smokers - irritation to the eyes, runny nose, sore throat and headache. I had that experience myself. I always worked with smokers. They did not care a bit about my health. Fortunately I did not suffer from asthma, bronchitis, allergies or anything. Passive smoke can bring severe attacks on people who suffer from these diseases or even heart disease. I did not seem to care about my health either as I never questioned their right to smoke in work reunions. Today I would be pretty upset if they smoked in the same room for hours and hours. I know now that if I continue to breathe in other people’s smoke, I will have a higher chance of developing lung cancer, heart attack or lung infection. But strangely I never thought that both parents need to give up smoking early in pregnancy if they want to reduce the risk of their baby being affected. Most health campaigns that I have seen all my life focused only on the mother to be, not the father. And it was only very recently that I saw a campaign on secondhand smoke harmful effects for children, I think maybe four years ago. So I learned that passive smoking is dangerous to unborn children, babies and children in general, women, men, everybody. As I read more and more I was more surprised with what I found.
Celebrate World No Tobacco Day, 31 May