The shocking reason teenagers in Australia are taking up smoking during pregnancy

By Samantha Luiz
21 June 2016

Australian health officials said they were stunned to discover that teenage girls in the country are taking up smoking during pregnancy to deliberately have smaller babies.

According to results of a ten-year anthropological study into smoking, teenagers, some as young as 16, believe that having smaller babies would reduce their birth weight, thus alleviating the pain of childbirth.

“They had read on packets that smoking can reduce the birth weight of your baby, which is obviously not how the public health message is intended to be taken," explained Associate Professor Simone Dennis from the Australian National University.

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"They were scared because they were small. The worst thing that could happen to them was to have an enormous baby. Some were young, 16 or 17 years, and their overriding fear was 'Oh my God, I'm going to have an enormous child', so they were actively using cigarettes to medicate against that.

Read more: Smoking could damage mental health

The study, published in the book Smokefree, also revealed that while some teenagers took up smoking for the first for that "very reason", some "smoked harder, hoping the promise on the packet would come true.

"If you smoked more, you could make it better. I was really struck by that.”


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