7 common myths about smoking

There are lots of myths around smoking and pregnancy. Here, we talk about some of the most common ones and the facts behind them.

Blackboard with the words 'myths' and 'facts' written on it.

Myth 1: It's not a big deal. My parents smoked in pregnancy and I'm fine.

Your parents probably did not know the risk they were taking, but the effect of smoking on an unborn baby are now well established.

Stopping smoking is the single biggest thing that a woman can do to improve their chances of having a healthy pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth. The risks to both you and your baby are serious.

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Myth 2: Quitting will stress me out and harm the baby more.

This is not true. Smoking in pregnancy is much more harmful to the baby than any stress that may come from quitting, and there is help available to support you to manage this.

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Myth 3: A small baby will make labour easier.

This is not true. Having a smaller, weaker baby does not mean that you will have an easier birth and your baby may have to stay in hospital after they are born.

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Myth 4: I'm several months along. Is it too late to give up?

No, it is not too late. Quitting smoking at any time is the best thing you can do for your baby. Every day of pregnancy that is smoke-free helps your baby’s health and development.

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Myth 5: E-cigarettes are just as bad for me and my baby as smoking tobacco.

E-cigarettes or vapes have become a popular way to help smokers quit. An e-cigarette is a device that allows you to inhale nicotine in a vapour, rather than smoke (hence the term ‘vaping’). E-cigarettes don't burn tobacco and do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, which can cause serious harm to an unborn baby. Experts estimate that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.

If you need help to stop smoking in pregnancy, licensed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)  products (such as patches and gum) are recommended. These products have been tested and are considered safe in pregnancy. But if using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.

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Myth 6: I just don't have the willpower to quit.

You don't need to rely on willpower alone. Evidence shows that the best chance of quitting is through a combination of behavioural support and access to licensed stop smoking products. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is available on prescription and is free to pregnant women. Ask your midwife or GP about local stop smoking support, as this can really increase your chances of success. Find out more about getting help to stop smoking.

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Myth 7: The baby is protected in the womb.

This is not true. The poisons from the tobacco smoke move through the placenta into your baby's bloodstream. This can restrict the baby’s oxygen supply. As a result, their heart must beat harder every time you smoke.

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More about smoking in pregnancy


Clinical Knowledge Summaries. Pre-conception advice and management www.cks.nice.org.uk/pre-conception-advice-and-management (Last reviewed November 2019 Next review due: 2022) 

Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group. Use of electronic cigarettes before, during and after pregnancy. 2019.

McNeill, A, et al (2018) Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018: A report commissioned by Public Health England. PHE. 

Royal College of Physicians (2000) Nicotine Addiction in Britain. 

Yard, Neal L. (2001) Compensatory Smoking of Low-Yield Cigarettes https://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/tcrb/monographs/13/m13_3.pdf

Nash JE and Persaud TVN (1998) Experimental Pathology 33:65-73: Embryotic risks of cigarette smoking.

NICE (2018). Smoking: stopping in pregnancy and after childbirth. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph26

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    Last reviewed on February 14th, 2020. Next review date February 14th, 2023.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

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