Monday October 31, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- Quitting smoking is tough, but, as a few locals can attest, sometimes parenthood can be the most powerful impetus to kick the habit.

Next weekend, former smokers who stopped smoking for their unborn baby’s or child’s health will be sharing their stories with expectant and new parents at the "Community Baby Shower," an annual expo at the Berkshire Mall covering topics from obstetrics and breastfeeding to tobacco use.

"We look at some of the common issues that can have an effect on an unborn baby and children, and smoking certainly is one," said Becky Krysiak, a program coordinator for Healthy Families at Child Care of the Berkshires, which organizes the event with Berkshire North WIC. "In Pittsfield, there’s a high rate of smoking during pregnancy, so this is a benign way of helping to provide information -- even if they’re not ready to think about quitting, it’s a way to get that information out there."

Local members of the Massachusetts Ex-Smokers Hall of Fame will share their stories to impart to fair attendees, some in person on Saturday and some through written accounts.

One member, Bonnie Deraway, 54, began smoking at age 11 and tried and failed to quit well into her 30s.

"Back then, I used to smoke a cigarette while I was feeding the baby a bottle. I’m horrified now when I think of it, but it was so mainstream; everybody did it," said Deraway, of Clarksburg.


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It was only when her daughter, at age 11, was diagnosed with asthma -- which the doctor believed was smoke-related -- that Deraway realized she had to stop.

"It became a different mindset," she said. "At that point it was no longer about me and my needs. My habit was affecting my child’s breathing."

Other locals’ stories will touch on the issue of quitting smoking while pregnant -- and using that as a means to kick the habit for good.

"When you become pregnant, you’re changing so much of your life that this can be a part of what you’re changing -- so you’ve got a healthy nest to bring a baby into," said Joan Rubel, program coordinator of the Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership at the Berkshire AHEC.

In recent years, Pittsfield and North Adams have consistently notched high rates of smoking during pregnancy. The current data available from the state Department of Public Health indicates that 23.2 percent of Pittsfield women reported smoking while pregnant in 2008, while 38.7 did in North Adams -- all compared to a state average of 6.8 percent.

Infant health issues associated with smoking during pregnancy include premature birth, low birth weight, higher rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and respiratory problems.

If you go ...

What: Community Baby Shower for expectant parents and parents of young children

When: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Nov. 5

Where: Berkshire Mall, Center Court by J.C. Penney’s

Information: Free and open to the public. (413) 663-9242 or (413) 445-4324.