Despite the laws placing age limits on the purchasing of e-cigarettes, recent research shows a rise in traditional cigarette smoking among pregnant teens. However, this phenomenon did not have negative birth outcomes, according to the more than 500,000 teenage births analyzed across the United States.

The study, carried out by researchers at Cornell University and Princeton University, was published in the National Bureau of Economic Research as a working paper.

Regulating E-Cigarettes Makes Pregnant Teens Smoke More

The results of the study show a 19.2 percent increase in cigarette smoking among all pregnant teenagers, both of age and underage, and a 13.8 percent increase among pregnant teens 17 years old and below, following the policy of minimum legal sale ages for e-cigarette delivery systems.

Across the country, all states have age limits on traditional cigarette sales. If these limits were perfectly implemented, it would be impossible for underage pregnant women to substitute e-cigarettes with the traditional ones. The research suggests that e-cigarette regulation is more binding on teens, who often get to substitute a source of nicotine for another.

"The higher estimate in this study suggests cigarette demand among pregnant teens is highly elastic and is substantially impacted by the availability of substitute products," the researchers noted.

The researchers reported that in spite of the increased incidence of cigarette smoking among teens, they did not find evidence of any negative effects on the birth outcomes. They explained that this was probably because the laws governing the minimum legal sale ages for electronic nicotine delivery systems reduce the teens' overall exposure to nicotine.

"If anything, there may be positive effects in terms of reductions in the incidence of very premature births and increases in Apgar 5 scores," they added.

Generally, the use of traditional cigarettes decreases among pregnant women, but the results of this research point out that the law limiting the access to electronic cigarettes negatively impacts this group of the population. According to Janet M. Currie, co-author of the research, this situation is most likely caused by the pregnant women's impossibility to switch to e-cigarettes.

As national surveys point out, teens started to dramatically shift away from traditional tobacco products in 2014, when a large number of them started using electronic delivery systems instead. These include e-cigarettes, vape pens, personal vaporizers and e-hookahs.

Promptly responding to this tendency, some states started to regulate the access to these devices, and between 2010 and 2014, 40 states raised the minimum sale age to 18. Additionally, two previous researches suggested that, when these products are regulated, more teens turn to traditional cigarettes.

These results gave the scientists the idea to investigate age-specific policies and the way the limitations imposed may have contributed to a rise in traditional cigarette consumption among pregnant teens.

Dangers Of Smoking During Pregnancy

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 10 percent of women reported smoking three months before pregnancy. Among these, approximately 55 percent quit smoking during the pregnancy. Among the ones who quit while pregnant, 40 started smoking again six months after giving birth.

"Each year, about 400,000 infants born in the United States are exposed to the chemicals in cigarette smoke before birth because their mothers smoke. Since the first Surgeon General's Report on smoking and health was released in 1964, 100,000 babies have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), prematurity, low birth weight, or other complications caused by exposure to the dangerous chemicals in tobacco smoke," notes a CDC fact sheet.

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