Smoking by mothers causes 56 infant deaths a year, claims ESRI report

SOME 56 babies are estimated to be dying each year as a result of smoking by their mothers, a report by the Economic and Social Research Institute has found.

The ESRI said the 56 deaths included:

22 caused by sudden infant death syndrome 45% of all cot deaths.

15 other infant deaths 5% of all other infant deaths.

19 late-term foetal deaths 5% of all such deaths.

The report, entitled Setting the Appropriate Tax on Cigarettes in Ireland, was published yesterday and recommends increasing the price of cigarettes and also working to improve self-control among smokers.

The report estimates that maternal smoking had an economic cost of between €122 million and €182 million or €2.18m to €3.25m for each death.

Report author Dr David Madden said the cost is estimated in terms of the value of the statistical life (VoSL).

The report said maternal smoking also had a major effect on birth-weight. Extra medical costs of approximately €20m were incurred with low birth-weight babes.

"Low birth-weight infants have greater risks of developmental and health problems than other infants, with higher rates of cerebral palsy and other forms of brain injury. There are also higher rates of deafness, blindness, epilepsy, chronic lung disease and mortality. By school age they are more likely to suffer from learning disabilities and attention disorders," Dr Madden said "Thus, the external costs associated with low birth-weight comprise higher medical expenditure, infant mortality and the future of lower educational achievement on earnings." The report also estimates passive smoking costs the Exchequer €230m to €458m in terms of coronary care for passive smokers.

Dr Madden estimates the total external cost of smoking including health bills and loss of productivity is between €1,237m and €1,886m per year. He said people spend about €1,869m on cigarettes each year. He suggested there was "scope for further increases in the real level of taxation".

A study by Dr Madden's ESRI colleague Tony Layte earlier this week said a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes would result in 1% of smokers quitting and 3% cutting their intake.

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