Why is smoking harmful?

Smoking is linked to many serious health problems for women. These include heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and stroke. Almost 500 women die in the U.S. every day from smoking-related causes. It is especially important for women of reproductive age to know about the dangers of smoking in case they become pregnant.

If you get pregnant and you smoke, can it hurt the baby?

Yes. If you smoke during pregnancy, the baby is exposed to more than 2,000 harmful chemicals with each puff. Nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other chemicals in tobacco smoke are passed from the mother to the baby through the placenta. No amount of smoking is safe, especially early in pregnancy. Also, if you’re trying to get pregnant, smoking may make it harder. Smoking during the first days and weeks of pregnancy, before you may know that you are pregnant, can cause damage to the baby that lasts a lifetime. Smoking during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born too soon or too small.  Exposure to smoking also increases the chances of a baby dying at birth or shortly after birth. Even if you don’t smoke, the smoke from someone else’s cigarette is bad for your health and the health of the baby. Stay away from places where people are smoking. 

There is no safe level of smoking. Occasional smoking is still harnful.  CDC Vital Signs.

How do I quit smoking?

Whether or not you are planning a pregnancy, quitting smoking will greatly improve your health. Quitting is not easy and most people have to try to quit several times before they succeed. Quitting also takes time. That’s why it’s a good idea to try to quit now, especially if you could become pregnant. 

Quitting can be difficult without some help. Here are some resources that can help you quit:

  • Talk to your doctor or other health professional about making a plan to stop smoking.
  • The California Smoker’s Helpline offers free one-on-one telephone counseling in six languages.
  • They also offer brochures and referrals to local services. Call (800) NO-BUTTS or go to
  • Nicotine gum, patches, and medications often help smokers quit. Ask your doctor if these are right for you.
  • Some people like to join stop-smoking groups. You can get a referral to a group in your area from: 
    The California Smokers Helpline, (800) NO-BUTTS (Six language services available)
    The American Cancer Society, (800) ACS-2345 (Spanish service available) or
    The American Lung Association at (800) LUNGUSA (Spanish service available)
  • Some people prefer to quit on their own.  You can get a self-help guide from: 
    The California Smokers Helpline, The American Cancer Society  or The American Lung Association

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