Pregnant women, new moms and others with new babies are encouraged to take part in Wisconsin programs to quit smoking

September is National Infant Mortality Month

Madison—It is no secret that breaking an addiction to nicotine is extremely difficult, even when there is a strong incentive to quit— such as during pregnancy or when there’s a new baby in the house.

Currently, at least 13 percent of women in Wisconsin smoke during pregnancy–that’s higher than the national average of 9 percent.

Smoking while pregnant can lead to a host of complications, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth-weight, birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“Sadly, the addiction is so powerful and the stress on some women is so high, it can override even the strong desire pregnant women have to protect themselves and their babies.

Fortunately, there are programs available to help women quit smoking while pregnant and stay smoke-free once the baby is born,” said Karen McKeown, Wisconsin Division of Public Health Administrator.

Wisconsin’s First Breath Program provides quit smoking counseling to expectant mothers. In addition, Badger Care Plus members who are pregnant and smoke may be eligible to participate in Striving to Quit.

Striving to Quit is a study that offers many of the benefits of the First Breath Program, with two additional benefits: participants may be eligible for cash incentives to quit smoking, plus up to a year of postpartum quit support.

“Unfortunately, a third of women who quit smoking while pregnant start up again shortly after giving birth,” said Sue Ann Thompson, director of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. “We are very excited to offer postpartum support while we study what works to help new moms stay smoke-free.”

Household smoke, often referred to as secondhand smoke, is also harmful to babies.

“Secondhand smoke can lead to ear infections, asthma, and increase the risk of SIDS,” McKeown said.

“Fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other smokers with a pregnant woman or a newborn in their life should show support for mom and baby and get their own quitsmoking assistance by calling the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800- QUIT NOW.”

For more information on First Breath, visit For more information on the Striving to Quit study, visit: For additional resources on smoking and tobacco use, visit

Note: To arrange an interview with a former First Breath participant who now helps other women quit smoking, please call Lisette Khalil at 608-251-1675 x 115.