Although it is generally accepted that vaping is 95% safer than smoking this only applies to individuals and not babies in the womb. With smoking, toxins produced from the combustion can cross the placenta and effect foetal development. People who hold concerns about vaping and pregnancy are only focussed on the effect of nicotine.
Previous papers looking at the effects of nicotine like this one looked at nicotine on animal models, while this one collates assorted evidence. The NHS reports that there are 9,900 pregnant women who smoke, and the advice given to them is to use traditional NRT products. But what if vaping has a role to play?
This new study will follow a group of women who are struggling to quit cigarettes. They will continue to monitor the babies after birth for two years, noting developmental issues related to vaping.
Linda Bauld, vocal supporter of vaping as a harm reduction tool, explains: “We are primarily interested in adult smokers who struggle to stop – that includes groups like prisoners, people with mental health problems and pregnant women. We haven’t made much inroads into reducing smoking rates in these groups, so for these groups e-cigarettes offer real promise.”
Bauld went on to add: “We will be recruiting several hundred pregnant smokers and randomising them to use NRT and behavioural support, or an e-cigarette and behavioural support and then we will see how they get on. We will look at 'does it help them stop smoking, do they like it and is it safe'?”
Janet Fyle, Royal College of Midwives, opined: “We have to say the jury is still out on e-cigarettes. We do not know what the harm is if any, so we have to be cautious and say to (pregnant) women this is the perfect opportunity to give up smoking, improve your health and stay smoke-free.”
Sheila Duffy, ASH Scotland, commented: “There are still many unknowns, partly because there is such a wide range of different products and liquids, and partly because the research is still ongoing. We are now starting to see some interesting findings, but while we have a really good body of evidence on the vast harmfulness of cigarettes and tobacco, we don’t yet have a complete evidence base on the long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes.”
Fears that Duffy and Fyle are being too cautious may be well founded, but the study will provide concrete answers and is in the hands of someone vapers can trust.