Sophie Orton, Lauren Taylor, Libby Laing, Sarah Lewis, Michael Ussher, Tim Coleman, and Sue Cooper say that postpartum return to smoking “is an important public health problem”.
“E-cigarette use has increased in recent years, and in a contemporary UK pregnancy cohort, we investigated factors, including e-cigarette use, associated with postpartum return to smoking.”
The team conducted analyses of a longitudinal cohort survey with questionnaires. The first questionnaire was completed during 8–26 weeks pregnancy, the second during late pregnancy at 34–36 weeks, and the third and final questionnaire was completed 3 months after delivery. In total, 750 women were recruited from 17 hospitals in England and Scotland during 2017.
“Helping pregnant women quit smoking and remain abstinent in the long term is an important public health issue. In 2019/2020, 12.1% of women in England were smoking in early pregnancy,1 however, around half attempt cessation after conception. Unfortunately, relapse is common, with up to 75% returning to smoking within 12 months of giving birth.”
Noting the health issues that smoking causes to both mother and child, the team identified those women most likely to relapse back to smoking and point out that there is currently no effective intervention being put in place.
Enter the e-cigarette.
“Electronic cigarettes have potential for public health benefit as they do not involve tobacco combustion, which is the main source of harm from conventional cigarettes.”
The team note the findings of Cochrane TAG: “In non-pregnant smokers, there is moderate certainty that ECs containing nicotine improve cessation rates, compared with non-nicotine vaping products or nicotine replacement therapy.”
They measured vaping’s success with the response to a set of questions: “The primary outcome measure was return to smoking at 3 months postpartum using participant’s responses to the question ‘which statement best describes your smoking right now?’. Response options were ‘I do not smoke at all’ ‘I smoke occasionally, but not every day’, ‘I smoke every day, but less than when I was pregnant’, ‘I smoke every day, about the same as when I was pregnant’ and ‘I smoke every day and tend to smoke more than when I was pregnant’. Women who reported smoking at least occasionally were considered to have returned to smoking.”
The research team say this is the first study exploring the use of vapes in pregnancy and postpartum. They found that vaping works to help pregnant women quit smoking and remain tobacco-free in the three months following birth.
- Are E-cigarettes associated with postpartum return to smoking? Secondary analyses of a UK pregnancy longitudinal cohort - https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/12/4/e061028