- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

STE. GENEVIEVE, Mo. (AP) - Six sites across Missouri are participating in a new program that offers a year of free diapers to new mothers who agree to give up cigarettes.

The program, called “Baby & Me: Tobacco Free,” is gaining traction nationwide since a 2011 study showed its success in helping women not only quit during pregnancy, but stay smoke-free for months afterward, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1evd7Fe ) reported.

Twelve states have Baby & Me programs, and a dozen others have programs in the works, according to program founder and director Laurie Adams, a cessation educator in New York.

Missouri ranks near the top of states in the number of pregnant women who smoke - about 17.5 percent, more than twice the national average. Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as having a low birth weight or premature baby, the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality.

The incentive is substantial: Diapers are expensive.

“That gets them in and gets them interested to listen,” said Carrie Staab, a respiratory therapist at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital, one of the Missouri sites offering the program.

The Baby & Me program involves four 15-minute face-to-face prenatal counseling sessions with a trained provider. Participants are tested with a carbon monoxide monitor to make sure they are smoke-free.

Previous efforts directed mothers to quitlines, websites and counseling. “We would hand them resources, and it would end there,” Staab said.

If the woman remains smoke-free, she returns after the birth for monthly visits and tests. For every month she doesn’t smoke during the baby’s first year, she gets a $25 voucher to be used only by her and only for diapers at participating Wal-Mart and CVS stores.

As added incentive, Ste. Genevieve is also awarding additional $25 vouchers for another person in the household who stays smoke-free.

“We like the tone of it. It’s positive. It’s not condemning mom, but helping her in positive way,” said Trina Ragain, director of program services for the March of Dimes chapter in Missouri. The nonprofit has joined with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to fund the initiative in several states.

Studies have shown that a majority of women in Baby & Me programs quit during pregnancy and 60 percent are still smoke-free at six months after giving birth.

The other Baby & Me sites in Missouri are in Hannibal, Fredericktown, Clinton, Cape Girardeau and Marshall.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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