Women in Spokane County are more likely to smoke during pregnancy than women statewide.
Here, more than 18 percent of pregnant women smoke at some point during pregnancy, according to a recently released study authored by epidemiologist Adrian Dominguez, with the Spokane Regional Health District. In Washington state, about 10 percent of pregnant women smoke.
Although smoking during pregnancy is widely recognized to come with a lengthy list of adverse effects, many factors contribute to maternal smoking rates; one of the biggest is income level, Dominguez said.
“We’re looking at high rates in low-income areas, primarily,” he said. “It seems like it’s more acceptable to be a smoker in these low-income areas, whereas in the high-income areas, I think it’s frowned upon.”
Spokane’s West Central neighborhood, located in the state’s most impoverished ZIP code, has the highest rate of maternal smoking locally, at more than 41 percent. Women in West Central are far more likely to smoke than those in Manito, where 4 percent of pregnant women smoke at some point in their pregnancy.
Dominguez said West Central, like many other low-income communities, has a higher number of convenience stores with big, eye-catching advertisements touting tobacco sales.
Education is also correlated with smoking rates in general. According to the study, the more education an adult has, the less likely he or she is to smoke. In Spokane County, those with less than a high school diploma are nearly six times more likely to smoke compared with adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Maternal smoking rates also disproportionately affect minority populations, Dominguez said.
Smoking during pregnancy can come with serious and sometimes lifelong consequences for both baby and mom.
“Smoking causes low birth weight,” he said. “It causes premature birth. They’re born with respiratory problems. It causes miscarriages, stillbirths, slow fetal growth. It’s also a risk factor for SIDS and birth defects. There’s just an array of anomalies.”
He added, “(A) child that’s born to that woman who smokes has a higher chance of dying in their first year of life compared to the child of the mother who did not smoke. Children of mothers who smoke have a higher likelihood of having problems in school.”
Having a baby with a low birth weight is 2.5 to 3.5 times more likely if the mom smokes while pregnant, said Dr. Jeroen Vanderhoeven, a fellow in maternal fetal medicine at the University of Washington. Smoking during pregnancy is 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to result in a preterm delivery.
“The No. 1 modifiable risk factor is smoking,” he said.
Further, Vanderhoeven said, smoking is linked to difficulty becoming pregnant.
Part of the purpose of the study, which was released this month, is to create awareness about health inequities in Spokane County so policymakers and organizational leaders can be informed when making decisions affecting public health.
“We have to challenge ourselves more in trying to come up with the reason why people continue to smoke,” Dominguez said. “Addressing the social and environmental factors that surround an individual. It’s looking at those root causes and trying to figure out what is it that we need to do.”