Tiffany Keirns of Chauncey, Ohio, had been smoking cigarettes for half of her life when she learned she was pregnant. But at that moment, she vowed to quit cold turkey. “As soon as I found out, I just quit altogether,” she recalls.
With her baby son, C.J., now seven months old, Keirns, 28, a former pack-a-day smoker, is still tobacco free. Staying that way remains a daily struggle for her, but one she considers well worth it. “It’s hard,” she admits. “But I had to do it for him.”
Keirns knew that smoking during pregnancy put her unborn baby at risk of multiple health problems such as premature delivery, low birth weight, and even death. Her obstetrician/gynecologist provided her with more information, and also referred Keirns to a local program that has helped her stick to her resolve to stay off cigarettes for her baby’s sake.
In Athens County, where she lives, the BABY & ME — Tobacco Free Program™ is offered by Community Health Programs at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Though Keirns had plenty of motivation to give up tobacco, the task has been made easier by the support of the smoking cessation professional whose services the program provides. Pitching in is her mother, Lynn Mash, who faithfully delivers Keirns to her BABY & ME appointments, and helps with taking care of baby C.J. She also gets assistance from the Help Me Grow program, offered by the Ohio Department of Health.
The help she gets from BABY & ME ranges from encouragement and emotional support, to education about the health effects of tobacco. It can also include useful tips as simple as popping a hard candy in your mouth instead of lighting up, when the urge to smoke comes on.
Keirns also cheerfully submits to regular carbon monoxide breath-testing, to confirm that she’s not sneaking puffs in between appointments. “I blow in the machine; I’m happy to do that,”she said.
If low birth weight is a common result of smoking by pregnant women, C.J., who tipped the birth scales at well over eight pounds, is a living testimonial to the program’s value. “I wanted a small baby,” Keirns acknowledged with a laugh. “But that didn’t happen!”
Though Keirn’s boyfriend, C.J.’s father, still smokes, he is “really supportive” of her decision to quit. “He smokes, but he doesn’t do it around me,” she said.
Mash noted that the BABY & ME program also offers a practical incentive for moms like her daughter to stay off cigarettes. For a year after the baby is born, a mom who continues to test smoke-free receives each month a voucher for $25 worth of diapers. “That helps, getting the diapers,” Mash said.
Kim Knapp-Browne, who coordinates BABY & ME in Athens County, said Keirns has clearly been committed to the program from the start, never missing an appointment.
Keirns said she’s happy for her own sake to have kicked the smoking habit, in addition to the benefits it entailed for C.J. Even if she hadn’t gotten pregnant, she said, she might have tried eventually to quit anyway. But the fact of becoming a mother made the choice for her, and the BABY & ME program made it easier to carry through on her decision.
“I would recommend it to any mom,” she said. “They need to do it. Even though it’s hard, they should do it for the baby.”