Attitudes and perceptions related to smoking among pregnant and postpartum women in a low-income, multiethnic setting

Caroline L. Dunn, Phyllis L. Pirie, Harry A Lando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into attitudes and perceptions about smoking during pregnancy, passive smoke exposure, barriers to quitting, and program preferences among women in a low-income, ethnically diverse setting. Design, Nine focus group discussions were conducted with African-American, Native American, and white women. Discussions were moderated by local residents who shared the same ethnic background as group participants. Setting. Discussions were held in neighborhood centers and clinics in an urban area. Subjects. A total of 57 women participated. Moderators recruited participants from within their social networks and from neighborhood programs. The informal process of recruitment did not allow calculation of response rates. Measures. A series of open-ended questions with selected probes was used to guide the conversation. Results. Participants were aware that smoking during pregnancy is harmful and were concerned to varying degrees about their smoking behavior. Most women who smoked took active steps to reduce the risks. Actions were frequently accompanied by beliefs that rationalized moderate levels of smoking. While concerned, women were uncertain about what constituted harmful, passive smoke exposure. Personal barriers to quitting included being around others who smoked, feelings of stress and boredom, addiction, and not believing smoking is dangerous enough. Participants tended to value pregnancy-related advice from female friends and relatives over advice from professionals. Conclusions. Results suggest that many women respond to warnings about smoking during pregnancy, but actions are not necessarily measured in quit rates. Misconceptions about the risks may help to rationalize continued smoking. Subjects lacked knowledge about how best to reduce the risks of passive smoke. Educational efforts may be effective when directed at networks of women who share information. The nature of qualitative data collection prevents extrapolation of these results to a larger population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-274
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998


  • Ethnicity
  • Passive Smoke
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking


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