Originally created 12/05/01

Health group targets pregnant smokers in new ad campaign



WASHINGTON -- It is estimated that at least 13 percent of pregnant women smoke, but health advocates hope a new ad campaign will help them kick the habit.

The American Legacy Foundation is launching the national campaign Tuesday.

It is targeting some 426,000 women who smoke throughout their pregnancy, said Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the Washington-based group.

Women who smoke are nearly 70 percent more likely to have low birth weight babies, and maternal smoking has been linked to one in 10 infant deaths.

Beginning Tuesday, the spouses of 16 governors will appear in television ads in their home states urging pregnant women to stop smoking. National ads will then appear throughout the country, Healton said.

The ads will tell the women to call a hot line managed by the American Cancer Society.

"There's never been a national hot line for pregnant smokers," Healton said, adding that the callers would receive help from trained counselors.

Healton said her hope was that the program would cut the number of pregnant smokers by half.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said states need to get more involved in the fight.

He said at least half of pregnant women who smoke are on Medicaid, but he said 17 state Medicaid programs do not fund smoking cessation programs.

"This program will begin a dialogue, but success will really only be attained if states provide coverage for those who want to quit," he said.

The Legacy Foundation campaign is expected to cost at least $6 million, Healton said.

The group is funded through the $206 billion settlement reached by the tobacco companies and 46 states three years ago.

On the Net:

American Legacy Foundation: http://www.americanlegacy.org/

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: http://tobaccofreekids.org/