Pregnant women use e-cigs just as much as others despite health risks

Pregnant women use e-cigarettes just as much as anyone else despite health risks, study finds

  • Cigarette use was much lower among pregnant women than non-pregnant women, 8% compared to 14.3%, respectively
  • But e-cigarette use rates were nearly identical among the two groups, 3.6% for pregnant women and 3.3% for non-pregnant women
  • No studies have been published on whether e-cig use can cause miscarriage or birth defects
  •  However, the vaping devices contain nicotine, which has been found to damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs

Pregnant women are using e-cigarettes as much as women who aren’t expecting, a new study finds.

Researchers say that about 3.5 percent of pregnant and non-pregnant women reported being frequent users of e-cigarettes.

Health experts have warned that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, just like traditional cigarettes, which can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs.

The team, from the University of Iowa, says its findings represent the first national estimate of e-cigarette use among pregnant women and can help doctors establish clinical guidelines for e-cig use during pregnancy.

A new study from the University of Iowa found that rates of e-cigarette use among pregnant women and non-pregnant women were the same at 3.6 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively (file image)

For the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, the team analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey from 2014 to 2017

Participants included US women between ages 18 and 44, about 1,000 of whom were pregnant and nearly 27,000 whom were not pregnant.

Researchers defined e-cigarette use as using the vamping device every day or some days.

The women were also asked about how often they used conventional cigarettes at the time of the study and over the course of their lifetimes.

The team found that cigarette use was much lower among pregnant women, at about eight percent, compared to non-expectant women at 14.3 percent.

But when it came to e-cigarettes, the rates were nearly identical.

Data showed that about 3.6 percent of pregnant women reported using e-cigarettes compared to 3.3 percent of non-pregnant women. 

Proponents of e-cigarettes have touted that they are healthier, safer alternatives to traditional tobacco products. 

Additionally, because there are no published studies on whether e-cigarette use during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or birth defects, the authors say this may lead women to believe that e-cigs are safe to use.  

But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigs can contain nicotine, which has been found to damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs.  

Studies have also found that those exposed secondhand were at much lower risk from e-cigarettes than from traditional ones, some risk might still exist. 

A report published earlier this month from the CDC found that 10 percent of women reported using these devices shortly before pregnancy compared to seven percent around the time of pregnancy.

The authors of the new study suggest that the women they surveyed may have switched from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes when they became pregnant as a way to try to quit smoking. 

Currently, e-cigarettes are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as  a quit smoking aid and there is limited evidence to suggest the devices can help smokers quit.  

‘Further investigation with a larger sample size is warranted,’ wrote lead author Dr Wei Bao, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois College of Public Health.

‘Longitudinal studies starting from the preconception period are needed to determine the changing patterns in e-cigarette and conventional cigarette use among pregnant women.’

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