Smoking Among Teen Mothers is on the Rise

Overall Smoking During Pregnancy Drops Steadily

For Release: Thursday, November 19, 1998

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800,

Smoking During Pregnancy, 1990-96. Vol. 47, No. 10. 12. pp. (PHS) 99-1120 pdf icon[PDF – 187 KB]

While smoking during pregnancy has declined significantly in recent years, smoking by pregnant teens remains high and actually increased in the two most recent years measured, according to a report released today.

The study, “Smoking During Pregnancy, 1990-96,” was issued by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a part of HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was announced by HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala, joined by Vice President Al Gore, at an event marking the American Cancer Society’s 22nd annual “Great American Smokeout.”

According to the report, the overall rate of smoking during pregnancy dropped 26 percent between 1990 and 1996, so that in 1996 about 14 percent of all women reported smoking during their pregnancies compared with almost 20 percent in 1990. Additionally, declines in smoking were reported for all race and Hispanic origin groups between 1990 and 1996.

However, for pregnant women ages 15-19, the smoking rate actually increased in 1995 and 1996 to 17.2 percent after declining for several years.

“This study confirms once again that we must do more not only to help people stop smoking, but to prevent them from smoking in the first place,” Secretary Shalala said. “Every day, 3,000 teenagers start to smoke, placing themselves at risk of lung disease and cancer. And as this heartbreaking report shows, smoking among teenagers who are pregnant is also going up — putting the next generation at risk as well.”

Vice President Gore and Secretary Shalala took part in an antismoking rally with youth at Lafayette Elementary School in Washington, DC. The “Great American Smokeout” is a day to encourage Americans to quit smoking and commit to a healthy, tobacco-free environment.

Vice President Gore also unveiled a package of nine television public service announcements aimed at preventing young people from smoking. The spots will be available to all states and communities through the National Clearinghouse at CDC. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will also make this select group of PSAs available through the pro bono match component of their media campaign.

“The American Cancer Society, and all the public health groups participating in the Great American Smokeout, are helping fight this epidemic,” Secretary Shalala added. “But we need more– we need Congress to take action against the deadly threat of tobacco. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.”

The report presents an analysis of the current patterns and trends in smoking by age, race and ethnic origin on a national basis and, for the first time, a state-by-state breakdown of smoking rates for each year as well as the percent change from 1990 to 1996.

“It is important to track smoking rates among pregnant women because of the serious consequences, such as low birthweight, growth retardation and infant mortality associated with smoking,” said CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. “This information tells us where prevention efforts are working and where more needs to be done. Clearly, all of today’s teenagers haven’t gotten the message that smoking is extremely dangerous.”

Other highlights of the report show:

The youngest mothers, under age 15, and the oldest, those 40-49 years of age, have the lowest rate of smoking during pregnancy. Women in the peak childbearing years experienced the greatest decline.

Of all groups, American Indian women still have the highest rate of smoking (21 percent) and had the smallest reduction in that rate. Smoking rates are also high for non-Hispanic white mothers (17 percent) whose rate dropped by 20 percent. Rates are lower for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women and those rates were further reduced by about 35 percent. Already the lowest, smoking rates for Asian and Pacific Islander women were cut by 40 percent, to a smoking rate of 3 percent by 1996. Non-Hispanic white teens have the highest rate overall at 29 percent.

There is great variation in smoking rates within racial and ethnic groups as well. Puerto Rican mothers have higher rates (11 percent) than any other Hispanic groups. Hawaiian mothers have higher rates (15 percent) than any other Asian and Pacific Islander women.

The report includes data for most states and the District of Columbia and New York City, all of which reported a drop in smoking rates from 1990 to 1996 (with the exception of New Mexico where there was no change). The District of Columbia reported the largest single decline, a 57-percent drop. Connecticut, Hawaii, New York City, Texas and Utah along with D.C. have the lowest smoking rates–at or below 10 percent. West Virginia has the highest rate with 26 percent of women smoking while pregnant, followed closely by Kentucky at 25 percent.

The number of cigarettes smoked during pregnancy has also declined. Among women who smoked during pregnancy, 33 percent smoked at least half a pack a day in 1996, down from 42 percent in 1990.

Data on smoking during pregnancy are based on information reported on birth certificates filed in state vital statistics offices and reported to NCHS through the National Vital Statistics System.

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