Smoking rampant among pregnant women in Alberta..

December 27, 2008 - A new report that shows a startling number of women in Alberta smoke while pregnant provides a clear warning sign the province's approach is falling short, a University of Calgary researcher says. A recently-released 2005 Alberta Health and Wellness study examined 28,484 samples from pregnant women randomly selected from 50,599 serum samples used for a province wide bio-monitoring test from January to December 2005. The concentrations of cotinine measured here indicate that many pregnant Albertan women were smokers at the time of their blood sample collection, particularly in the youngest women examined and in northern Alberta.

According to the study, between 25 to 32 percent of former and current smokers lit up regularly during their most recent pregnancy. The national average is 19 to 22 per cent. This, despite a provincial government strategy to reduce 2000-01 smoking rates in pregnant women from 32 per cent to 12 per cent in 2010-11.

It found that the levels of cotinine--a nicotine metabolite and marker of cigarette smoke exposure-- were unusually high among expecting Alberta women, particularly those in northern Alberta and younger than 25-years-old. The findings in northern Alberta, including formerly-separate Aspen, Peace Country and Northern Light health regions, were especially alarming, according to the report.

Dr. Shabih Hasan, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Calgary faculty of medicine who researches the effects of tobacco exposure during pregnancy. "There is an enormous price to pay for this. We have not made a dent." The risks of maternal smoking during pregnancy are well-established, Hasan said. Lighting up while pregnant has been found to harm the fetus and is linked to increased risks of stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, premature delivery and higher rates of sudden infant death.

Reference: Smoking rampant among pregnant women in Alberta by Jamie Komarnicki, Calgary Herald, 12/26/2008.

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