The figures release by NHS Wales this week have revealed that 37% of all mothers in the country smoke at some point while they are pregnant, and that a massive 22% smoke throughout their entire pregnancy. Both these statistics add up to Welsh mothers being the biggest smokers across the whole of the UK and the least likely to quit their habit because of pregnancy. Mothers under the age of 20, or those who worked a manual or routinely timetabled job, were also more likely to be smokers while they were pregnant. We asked a local mother from Llantristant, who smoked during her pregnancy, what she thought of these new facts:
“I shouldn’t have smoked at all when I was pregnant but at most it was 4-5 a day. It was a very stressful time and the pregnancy itself was also very stressful. I also had a lot of morning/afternoon sickness which made me crave cigarettes a lot more,” said Kate Ranson, mother of two, from Llantrisant in Pontyclun.
“If I had another child now though I’d definitely quit smoking, there just wasn’t enough warning or information about the dangers back then.”
Helen Rogers, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales, went on record saying: “Although we know adult women have stopped smoking there are still high levels among younger women in the general population and these are the ones who are also getting pregnant.”
“Underlying all this is that young women think it’s cool to smoke and they don’t see being pregnant as a reason to give up. This is a real issue and Wales has got a public health problem here.”
This starling statistic is not only detrimental to the mother’s health, but also to the unborn foetus as smoking during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of low birth weight in the child, premature births, miscarriages and cot death.
In the same set of data released, even more distressingly, we also learn that 28% of under-age girls in Wales are smokers with boys trailing behind at only 19%. This was based on weekly smoking, which labels them as a regular smoker, and the chart clearly shows that once again under-age girls smoking habits in Wales are close to re-reaching their peak from back in the late 90′s.
The biggest concern is that when somebody starts smoking at an early age, or even under-age, that they are far more likely to continue the habit on further into their life. With peer-preasure becoming a larger part of the day-to-day lives of teenagers, parents are, rightfully, more worried that this statistic is going to keep rising as time goes on.
Josh Matthews, 14, from Cardiff spoke exclusively to Exposure Radio earlier today saying: “I started smoking about a year ago after a few of my mates got me into it. Now I tend to have a pack or two a week. I don’t really think of it as a big deal, like, it just helps relax me, you know?”
“Though to be fair, I know way more girls who smoke. Almost every girl I’ve ever dated has been one [a smoker]. They’re always going on about how it keeps them looking good and stops them stressing out about stuff.”
The percentage of under-age girls in Wales who are considered to smoke regularly is above the average across all countries the figures derived from. With the figures slowly again crawling upwards of younger people smoking, it it apparent that Wales’ youth is again headed towards the peak of 1996, and possibly in line to exceeds it if these statistics continue to climb.
The Chief Medical Officer of Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, spoke out over the under-age smoking figures saying that “There is a wealth of evidence showing our current level of smoking is a major cause of lifelong nicotine addition, avoidable illness and premature deaths.”
The figures go on to show that households with lower income in lower income areas are more likely to contain smokers. Which of course leads to the data showing that the age standardised percentage is higher among the unemployed, or never employed, than it is among people who have a higher managerial or professional position. The percentage, which again is at a stunningly high 49%, of unemployed people who smoke does have a correlation with the age-standardised percentage who smoke in their local authority. As demonstrated on the map (which can be seen below) the higher the unemployment in the area, the higher the percentage of smokers appears to be.
Despite this mound of data which was dropped into the public eye, and the many different concerns which have arisen because of it, the numbers show that smoking (in general) is on the decrease in Wales as a whole. It’s mainly the people who are smoking, such as the under-age and the pregnant, that this information has brought to light the problems the country needs to start focussing on.
View Smoking by local authority in a larger map
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