President's Report Masthead
June 30, 2012
The unfiltered truth

Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Geraldine Britton

The unfiltered truth

Most pregnant smokers know that cigarettes can harm their babies. But stern lectures from authority figures won’t help them quit.

That message came through loud and clear when Binghamton researchers went into the field to learn how to deliver information about tobacco use to pregnant women. Based on insights from front-line experts, the investigators created a video that they hope will succeed where other interventions have failed.

Twenty-six percent of women in upstate New York who gave birth in 2009 smoked during the three months before they conceived, and 12.24 percent still smoked in the last three months of their pregnancies, according to the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In some rural areas the problem is worse, said Geraldine Britton, assistant professor at the Decker School of Nursing and director of Binghamton’s Interdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Program (ITURP).

She and her colleagues, supported by a March of Dimes grant, worked with focus groups of pregnant smokers and healthcare providers. “The purpose was to increase the understanding of the pregnant smoker, including the motivation to quit,” Britton said.

One insight that emerged is that it’s hard to appreciate a risk you can’t see. A child born to a smoker may look like any other newborn. But a mother’s smoking can create a host of hazards for the baby, including low birth weight, nicotine withdrawal, asthma, cognitive delays and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “We had to somehow put a face to the problem,” Britton said.

ITURP created a 10-minute video to be shown during prenatal visits. Researchers will measure whether women who see the video, compared with a control group, are more likely to quit or cut down on cigarettes and less likely to resume smoking.

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