New bill would raise age limit to buy tobacco in Michigan

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Health experts believe smoking is one of the most harmful things a pregnant woman can do to her unborn child and it's on the rise in Michigan.

Smoking while pregnant is associated with premature births, low birth weight and even sudden infant death syndrome.

The harmful effects of smoking tobacco are printed on cigarette packs, but for many Michigan women kicking the habit is too hard to overcome, even when a baby is on the way.

"I'm naming him Nairobi. It's an African name and I'm in love with it," said Azha Bates, expecting mother.

It's nothing she's proud of, but Bates started smoking cigarettes at 15.

"I smoked in the beginning of my pregnancy, but the further I got - feeling him move, his heartbeat all the time - it just kind of bothered me," Bates said.

She's 19-years-old and quit with support from Dr. Stanley Frye at McLaren in Flint.

An alarming new study found the rate of Michigan women who smoked while pregnant rose by 18 percent between 2008 and 2014. Frye, an obstetrician gynecologist, is seeing more and more expectant mothers smoking these days.

"I go through the risk of pre-term delivery, low birth rates. Even secondhand smoke after the baby is delivered can increase risk for SIDS, which is sudden infant death syndrome. And nobody wants anything bad to happen to their baby," Frye said.

He said as a society we need to do much more to focus on the dangers of smoking. He said a lack of education is one reason there's an uptick, but he emphasizes that with any addiction, quitting is a feat within itself.

"Getting somebody to completely quit entirely is pretty difficult. But what I do is encourage them and say 'OK, you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day now. That's 20 cigarettes. In two weeks let's be down to 10 and see and go from there.' And after we get down to 10, can we cut it down to five and when we get down to three I say, "OK, do you really need three cigarettes a day or can we just quit,'" Frye said.

Meanwhile, Bates said quitting cigarettes is a daily battle but she did it for her baby.

"It's still hard to this day. I have a huge craving to smoke, but every time I feel him move I just know that his life is more important and things I want to do can definitely wait," she said.

Even with that powerful motivation she said there are days she could still use a support group, as well as a lifestyle change.

"Now I just stay away from smokers," Bates said.

Support groups like the Great American Smokeout come to Mid-Michigan to educate people about the health benefits of quitting.

"Well the hardest part for people is to make that first step to quit," Ann Werle said.

Werle and Covenant are working with clients on ways to address the stress that causes smoking in the first place.

Copyright 2016 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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