The incidence of low birthweight has been related to smoking prevalence in each social group using published data for 1984. The attributable risk of low birthweight has been estimated, based on a relative risk of 2 for mothers who smoke during pregnancy. Assuming 12.5% of cigarette smokers stopped smoking during pregnancy, 18.1% of all low weight births were caused by maternal smoking in 1984. The percentage for most social groups was similar. The overall attributable risk from smoking was estimated to be 12.7 low weight births per 1000 total births, with a further 12.1 per 1000 due to other factors acting in a socioeconomic gradient. We estimate that the minimum attainable low birthweight incidence in 1984 was 45.4 per 1000 total births, based on the lowest observed incidence, corrected for smoking prevalence, which was in social group II. We recommend the addition of maternal smoking information to the Korner maternity clinical options data set, to enable an accurate assessment of the risks and to provide local monitoring of initiatives to reduce smoking prevalence during pregnancy.
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