Reducing infant mortality has been named a top priority in the state of Indiana, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Only five states and the District of Columbia have higher rates of infant mortality, per 2011 statistics.
Tobacco use is known to be a contributing factor in several leading causes of infant mortality, including pre-term birth, low birth weight, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The Indiana State Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission website offers the following facts:
• Twenty to thirty percent of the cases of low birth weight babies can be attributed to smoking.
• Women who smoke during pregnancy have more than twice the risk of delivering a low birth weight baby.
• Babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy have twice the risk of SIDS than infants of nonsmoking mothers.
• Women who smoke have a higher incidence of ectopic pregnancy.
• Pregnant smokers also have a 30 to 50 percent higher risk of miscarriage than nonsmokers.
Prenatal exposure to secondhand smoke is also harmful to a child’s mental development. Children of mothers who were exposed to secondhand smoke when pregnant have lower scores on cognitive development tests at age two, compared to children of mothers living in smoke free homes during pregnancy.
The most current statistics available through the ISDH Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Division reveal that 16.6 percent of pregnant mothers in Indiana smoke, compared with the national average of 9.1 percent. Vigo County’s statistic is even higher, coming in at 21.1 percent.
In spite of the link between smoking and several leading causes of infant mortality, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in Indiana has been drastically cut in the last few years.
A recently released report notes that Indiana currently spends $5.8 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 7.3 percent of the $78.8 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
—Information complied by Libby Ray, Vigo County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coordinator, Chances and Services for Youth (CASY).