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When pregnant women are asked if they smoke, almost a quarter of the smokers deny they have the habit.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted from 1999 to 2006, researchers writing online in The American Journal of Epidemiology report that 13 percent of 994 pregnant women, and almost 30 percent of 3,203 nonpregnant women of reproductive age, were active smokers.

Among pregnant smokers, 23 percent reported that they did not smoke, despite high blood levels of cotinine, a biological indicator of tobacco exposure, that showed they did. More than 9 percent of the nonpregnant smokers also lied about it.

The authors acknowledge that cotinine levels can be increased by secondhand smoke, and that the exact blood level of cotinine that indicates smoking in pregnant women is not known. But pregnant women metabolize cotinine faster than nonpregnant women, so the rate may actually have been underestimated.

The lead author, Patricia M. Dietz, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the deceit probably stemmed from embarrassment. “Smoking has been stigmatized,” she said. “They feel reluctant to be chastised.” But concealing the addiction is not the answer, she said — quitting is.

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As a hygienist, I would say that tobacco is extremely harmful for a pregnant woman’s unborn child. The birth weight of babies whose mothers smoke is lower than that of babies whose mothers do not smoke. Of course, by quitting smoking, you add several years to your life expectancy.

i agree. Thanks Dr Stephany.

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