Parental smoking is associated with poor health outcomes for children, spouses, and the smoking parent. MassGeneral Hospital for Children researcher Dr. Jonathan Winickoff offers new program to help parents kick the habit.

Have you heard the NEWS?

Newborns Excel Without Secondhand Smoke program helps new parents quit smoking

02/Feb/2010

Winickoff

Smokers are often motivated to quit when they welcome a new baby into their family. Offering them assistance and access to resources to help them quit while they are still in the hospital may be ideal, according to a new study by researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC).

Using the Postpartum Hospital Stay to Address Mothers' and Fathers' Smoking: The NEWS Study," published in the March issue of Pediatrics, explores the idea of proactively asking new parents if they are smokers, if they would like to quit, and equipping them with the appropriate tools for successful cessation. "This study is the first of its kind to use the postpartum period to address smoking cessation for both mothers and fathers," says Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, lead study author and a pediatrician at MGHfC. "The birth of a baby presents a teachable moment to reach both parents and to provide cessation assistance."

Parental smoking is associated with poor health outcomes for children, spouses, and the smoking parent. While many smokers quit spontaneously during pregnancy and others quit with assistance, most do not, and over half of those who do quit resume smoking within six months of becoming a new parent. After the baby is born, postpartum stress, infant irritability, and breastfeeding failure may all contribute to the desire to continue smoking. New parents are under much stress as they navigate their new lives, and the tobacco addiction is often the most available coping mechanism. Having someone address the issue of tobacco cessation and connecting new parents to a support system helps increase the chances for successful quit attempts.

This pilot trial, known as Newborns Excel Without Secondhand Smoke (NEWS), assessed the smoking status of all new parents giving birth at a hospital child birth center during a 14-month period. Researchers enrolled 101 new parents who were smokers or who had recently quit smoking. About half of the participants received an in-person counseling session and an invitation to enroll in a telephone quit line. Letters were also sent to the newborn's pediatrician, the parents' primary care provider, and the mother's obstetrician indicating their tobacco use status and recommending strategies to help them quit. Of current smokers, 64 percent of those in the intervention group reported a quit attempt, versus only 18 percent in the control group.

The new mother and father's hospital stay may be a particularly opportune time to coach new fathers who might not otherwise be approached about smoking cessation options. The study found that while 90 percent of mothers were counseled by their obstetricians to quit smoking, only 15 percent of fathers received such advice. A high rate (75 percent) of fathers in the intervention group at the hospital enrolled in the quit line. Winickoff's team hopes that hospitals and birthing centers across the country will adopt such practices in order to reach a much larger portion of the smoking population, increase quit attempts, and decrease the number of children affected by secondhand smoke.

"Quitting smoking is part of being the best parent you can be," states Winickoff. "We're here to help parents succeed for their own health, and for the health of their children."