Smokeless tobacco used more by pregnant women in South East
Pregnant women in South East Asia are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than non-pregnant women, despite the added risk of fetal harm during pregnancy. The study also suggests that there is no difference in smoking between pregnant women and non-pregnant women in many lower to middle-income countries. (LMICs)

Researchers analyzed data from 42 lower to middle-income countries (LMICs) and also conducted a separate sub-group analysis for the South East Asia Region. (SEAR) The study included 80,454 pregnant and 1,230,262 non-pregnant women.

The findings in LMICs are contrary to high-income countries (HICs), where the use of tobacco is relatively low during pregnancy.

The report concluded that although tobacco use among women in LMICs is lower than in higher HICs this may be because LMICs are earlier in the epidemic curve of tobacco use. If ignored as a public health issue and the tobacco industry continues to market its products to women, the level of tobacco use may rise as it did in HICs.

Despite low prevalence rates and with no evidence that these differ among pregnant and non-pregnant women in LMICs, the report says it was concerning as tobacco consumption in any form and amount during pregnancy is associated with poor birth outcomes.

The report says more needs to be done to raise awareness about the harms of tobacco use among women in LMICs, especially during pregnancy.

Nicotine and Tobacco Research