The Double Whammy of Secondhand Smoke for Women

Kdouble whammyentucky Youth Advocates last blogged about the health effects of secondhand smoke on Kentuckians on November 20 – the day of the Great American Smokeout, and the day that Gov. Beshear’s recent executive order took effect to eliminate secondhand smoke and prohibit the use of all tobacco products inside approx. 3,000 state government buildings and outside on their campuses. Now that the 2015 General Assembly has begun, discussion and debates on a bill for a comprehensive smoke-free law covering indoor workplaces and public places are sure to heat up. We want to make sure Kentucky’s legislators, and their constituents, are armed with the facts.

There are a variety of reasons why child advocacy organizations, such as KYA, are advocating for the bill’s passage – chief among them is the protection of childhood health. Which begs the question, “Why highlight women in the title of this post?” Well, we know that optimal childhood health actually begins before conception or birth with a healthy mother. The “double whammy” of secondhand smoke on women is that 1) it places them at risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, but 2) it also places their unborn children in danger.

Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have babies born with a low birth weight and at higher risk of disabilities and infant death. Even if a woman is not pregnant during significant exposure to secondhand smoke, that exposure places her future pregnancies at greater risk of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or tubal pregnancy. This was found to be true even for women who had never smoked. Therefore, women who are pregnant, or would like to be one day, face a double whammy when exposed to secondhand smoke.

The good news is that there is a policy that can make a substantial difference. A comprehensive, statewide smoke‐free law prohibiting smoking indoors in workplaces and other public places would help protect women, and their unborn babies, from the dangers of secondhand smoke. An analysis of several studies found smoke‐free laws result in substantial drops in babies being born too soon – an important goal given Kentucky ranks 6th highest among states in the rate of preterm births.

Please join us in asking Kentucky’s legislators to take action this year and pass a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law so that children can have a healthy start in life. Visit Smoke-Free Kentucky to send a message to your state representative and senator, or let them know in person on Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol on February 5th.

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