Healthy newborns’ parents are more likely than NICU parents to quit smoking

February 1, 2016

Surveys of 226 parents/caregivers of infants in the newborn nursery (NBN) and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a New York hospital who were smokers and whom practitioners referred to a smoking quitline made the surprising finding that parents of healthy newborns are more receptive to these referrals than parents of infants admitted to the NICU.

Surveys of 226 parents/caregivers of infants in the newborn nursery (NBN) and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a New York hospital who were smokers and whom practitioners referred to a smoking quitline made the surprising finding that parents of healthy newborns are more receptive to these referrals than parents of infants admitted to the NICU. Whereas 79% of NBN parents accepted referral to the quitline, only 53% of NICU parents did so. Increased referral acceptance by parents of healthy infants was reflected in their higher rates of decreased smoking and quitting.

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Of the smokers surveyed, 62% were still smoking after the birth of their child, although most respondents reported that they had cut back when they learned of the pregnancy and some had quit entirely at some point before giving birth, with only 3% of mothers and 28% of fathers not quitting or cutting back at all during the pregnancy. At the 7- to 8-month postpartum follow-up, 11 of the 28 NBN parents who still smoked when their child was born had quit versus none of the comparable 7 NICU parents. Similarly, 11 of the 28 NBN parents versus 5 of the 7 NICU parents had cut back. Six NBN smokers compared with 2 NICU smokers neither quit nor cut back. More mothers than fathers quit /cut back-80% vs 46% (Boykan R, et al. Hosp Pediatr. 2015;5[12]:619-623).

Commentary: These are not the results I would have expected. Are parents of NICU babies too stressed and preoccupied to consider quitting? Or, maybe neonatologists in NICUs are too busy dealing with acute, urgent health problems to address a chronic health concern waiting for their patients at home. -Michael G Burke, MD

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.