Passive Smoking – the leading cause of stillbirths in Pakistan

While active smoking has its consequences, there is enough evidence to support that passive smoking is linked with implications on infant health specifically. The second-hand smoke, particularly during the period of pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirth, low birth weight, malformation, respiratory diseases and cognitive problems.

The first detailed study on the subject, following the innuendo, also verified the claims. Scientists carried out surveys in developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East with an intention to collect data regarding SHS (Second Hand Smoke). The data of 37,427 pregnant women was gathered from the surveys and follow-ups. Men between the ages of 15 to 49 years were also part of the study group regarding their smoking habits, particularly home-bound.


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The study time revealed that 40% of the women involved in the survey are exposed to SHS  lead to 17,000 stillbirths per year, making 7% of all the stillbirth incidents from various other reasons. The results further revealed that Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal and Bangladesh are more vulnerable to stillbirth incidents as 50% of women there are exposed to household SHS.

There were two common elements noticed in the women affected by SHS: 1) poverty 2) low education. Hence, it can be seen that both these issues plague Pakistan as well.

“This is the first study which provides national estimates for 30 developing countries on second-hand smoke exposure in pregnancy and it reveals a huge problem, a problem which is not being addressed” – said the lead author of the report from the department of health of University of York, Professor Kamran Siddiqui.

Pakistan needs a comprehensive strategy to educate the masses and protect women against the consequences. The survey team particularly said that low-income countries like Pakistan need it the most. The surveys in the past also suggest that second-hand or passive smoking also impacts children’s IQ.

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