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November 2005

When Quitting Means Winning:
North Carolina Women and Smoking

Nov. 17th marks the American Cancer Society's 29th annual Great American Smokeout - a stepping stone for many in the battle to quit smoking.

Recently, the state of North Carolina took a significant step of its own by launching the NC Quitline
(1-800-QUIT-NOW), providing support and resources for North Carolinians looking to stop smoking.

According to the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, nearly 20 percent of North Carolina women label themselves smokers. The rate among women of childbearing age (18-44) is even higher at 22 percent.

What does this mean? More than a fifth of our female population has an increased risk of developing health complications related to tobacco use, including heart and lung disease and various forms of cancer. It also means that a significant number of women are smokers when they become pregnant.

Although pregnancy motivates many women to quit, studies indicate that 13 percent of pregnant women smoke, sharing tobacco-related health risks with their unborn and newborn children. Exposing a developing fetus to tobacco smoke has been linked to adverse birth outcomes including low birthweight births, birth defects and death - contributing to the state's already increased infant mortality and morbidity rates.

Just as alarming, 20 percent of women smoke after giving birth which can increase the presence of secondhand smoke on parent's clothing and in the baby's sleeping environment, both of which increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Secondhand smoke can also contribute to many health problems in young children including bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and asthma.

Providing a free, easy to access smoking cessation resource is critical in helping to improve the health of all of North Carolina. Funded by the NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund and the NC Tobacco Prevention & Control Branch (DHHS), the NC Quitline is toll-free and bilingual. Quitting specialists are available from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week providing answers to questions, access to smoking cessation materials and on-going support.

Click below to view and order educational materials related to smoking cessation and secondhand smoke.

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Last updated: November 2005


At a glance

  • 22.5% of North Carolinians smoke*
  • 19.9% of NC women smoke*
  • 13.2% of NC women smoked while pregnant**
  • 20% of NC women smoked after giving birth**

N.C. State Center for Health Statistics
*2004 **2003

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