"Paying pregnant women to give up smoking is bullsh*t."

More than one in five Tasmanian women smoke while pregnant – and now they’re being paid to stop.

No drugs. No alcohol. And no smoking. It’s like the holy trinity of pregnancy, drummed into women from an early age.

But apparently the message is not getting through in one Australian state.

So, now women are being paid to not smoke. Yep, cold, hard cash. (Well, gift cards actually, which is just as good.) But I reckon that’s BS.

The top row features the foetus of a mother who smoked when pregnant. The baby in the bottom row’s mum didn’t smoke.

Tasmania clearly has a problem. A study carried out between 2009 and 2012 showed that about 22 per cent of pregnant Tasmanian women smoked, compared with a national average of 14 per cent. That figure is higher for younger mums-to-be with 35.7 per cent of under 20s and one in three women aged 20 to 24 continuing to light up while up the duff, the ABC reports.

The risks smoking poses to babies are well-documented. To name a few, they are more likely to have asthma, respiratory illnesses or stunted lung development, they are at a greater risk of SIDS and more likely to become smokers themselves later in life. Then there is the harm the smoker is doing to her own body.

Check it out here: These startling images show the real effects of smoking while pregnant.

In a bid to stamp out this horrible habit, University of Tasmania researcher Dr Mai Frandsen is paying expectant mothers to stop smoking. Every month, the women will have their carbon monoxide levels measured and – if the results are negative – voila, a $50 gift card is theirs. (She points out the voucher can only be spent on luxury items for the woman or baby, rather than groceries, to ensure the women are there by choice, not necessity, Vice reports.)

In a nutshell, pregnant women who quit smoking will be financially rewarded for not harming their baby. And I feel really weird about it.

Is having a healthy baby not incentive enough?


Pregnant women give up things they enjoy – grog, sushi, soft cheese – all the time without reward to prevent the serious medical consequences those substances can have on a fetus. I’m sure they too would love a voucher for doing something that benefits both them and their unborn child.

Smoking is not impossible to quit. It may be difficult to break the habit, it may be irritating and inconvenient, but so are all the other sacrifices pregnant women make. It’d likely be a bumpy ride full of cravings and floundering will power, but what better reason to give up cigarettes than to provide a smoke-free home for the tiny, little human living in your uterus.

In this day and age, the fact a mother needs to be paid to ensure her baby has the best possible start to life is ludicrous.

By all means, decreasing the rate of pregnant women smoking is a goal worthy of substantial investment. Something more needs to be done. Vice reports that Tasmania’s shocking figures are tied in with socio-economic factors, like relatively high rates of unemployment and lower education opportunities.

Perhaps better educating women about the dangers of smoking while pregnant, or assisting them on their journey to become smoke-free through free support groups and subsidised counselling and quitting aids, would be better than handing out vouchers. These are all changes I could get behind.

I just don’t see how spending $50 on cute baby clothes at Pumpkin Patch is going to genuinely change women’s attitudes towards smoking while pregnant.

Most women manage to prioritise the health of their unborn baby and alter their unhealthy habits.

If not harming the person growing inside you is not incentive enough, then what is?

Do you think this initiative is a good idea?

For more on pregnancy, try these articles:

“I hate pregnant sex. The phrase even makes me squirm.”

“I’m not pregnant, this is just my belly.”

Nine things I wish I knew before I got pregnant.

Chrissie Swan confesses to smoking while pregnant.