MARCH 31, 1999 : Generic photo of smoker putting out cigarette butt in ashtray 31/03/99. Sign at back reads
MARCH 31, 1999 : Generic photo of smoker putting out cigarette butt in ashtray 31/03/99. Sign at back reads "Butt Out Thank You". Pic Richard Cisar-Wright. People / Situation / Smoking

Babies put at risk as mums still smoking

DESPITE  years of cigarette health warnings, local mothers are still putting their babies at risk with about 12 per cent of Townsville women smoking during their pregnancies.

Analysis of national health data for 2012-14 also shows about 6.7 per cent of local babies are born below the optimum birthweight.

About 70.5 per cent of Townsville mums breastfeed.

Experts say smoking while pregnant can lead to low birthweights and potentially fatal complications for the baby.

"Smoking causes a reduction in the blood oxygen to the fetus, the nicotine can induce early labour and the poison in cigarettes can interfere with the fetus's metabolism," University of Queensland women's health researcher Gita Mishra said.

Professor Mishra said obesity could also have a major impact on unborn infants.

"We know that around 50 per cent of women of reproductive age are overweight or obese and that has been shown to lead to low birthweights," she said.

"Studies show that underweight babies are at higher risk of getting asthma, they have slower physical, social and cognitive development - they end up with additional challenges in life."

Townsville Hospital and Health Service (THHS) nursing and midwifery executive director Judy Morton said local women were supported to give up smoking.

"At every antenatal appointment the THHS provides smoking education and offers smoking cessation aids to pregnant women," she said.

"This includes a more intensive session at the first antenatal appointment and after the birth."

Queensland Health spent $5 million on anti-smoking programs across the state last year, including $214,400 on Quit for Baby, which is designed to reduce female smoking rates.

Smoking kills 40 adults a day in Australia.

"Every cigarette smoked has an immediate and negative effect on both the woman and her baby," a QH spokesperson said.

"There is no safe level of smoking during pregnancy.

"There is no better time to stop smoking than when you are pregnant or thinking of starting a family."