INVERNESS, Fla. (FOX 13) - For decades, Americans have known smoking cigarettes - especially while pregnant - is harmful to a mother and baby's health.
In Florida, research shows Citrus County has one of the highest rates of infants born to moms who lit-up while expecting.
Cindy Floyd, an advanced practice registered nurse at the Citrus County Health Department, says she sees too many expecting mothers who refuse to give up smoking cigarettes.
"I have a very, very high population of clients that come in for prenatal care that are smokers,” she said.
According to Department of Health data, in 2017, 4.8% of babies born in Florida were born to moms who smoked while pregnant. In Citrus County, the rate was more than four times higher, at 19.6%.
"Smoking and pregnancy can cause a baby to be lower birth weight,” Floyd explained. "They can also have stillbirths. They can have preterm deliveries or even miscarriages."
Studies show most smokers have low income, and that may be the case in Citrus County. Nearly 70% of births in the county are covered by Medicaid.
"A lot of these moms would like to quit, but don’t have the resources or the ability," said Floyd.
To try to bring those numbers down, the health department hosts a monthly class for expecting and new moms to help them quit smoking. The two-hour group sessions are presented by the Gulfcoast North Area Health Education Center to give mothers tools to kick their nicotine habits.
“A lot of times, going into a public class, they may feel judged or even stigmatized because they're pregnant and they're smoking,” Floyd said. “This here, they can come and they can get the support, the supportive environment and the resources they need, with people who are going through the same struggles as they are."
The meetings are open to pregnant women and moms up to six months postpartum, along with their partners. The sessions are held every third Wednesday of each month at 10:30 a.m. at the Citrus County Health Department.
Every quit class is completely free, but you must register to take part. Visit http://citrus.floridahealth.gov/events/2019/07/NoCostGroupQuit.html to register.