A research team at the School of Medicine at West Virginia University is testing the impacts of vaping among pregnant women.

MORGANTOWN — Professor Mark Olfert, an outspoken academic opponent to the harm reduction characteristics of electronic cigarettes, is leading a team at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine to determine the short- and long-term health impacts of vaping during pregnancy.

According to a WVU press release, it is estimated that half of the women who smoke before becoming pregnant will continue to smoke during and after their pregnancy.

“The impact of smoking while pregnant can lead to preterm birth, birth defects and an increased chance of sudden infant death syndrome. Because of this, a growing number of women who choose to smoke while pregnant are being encouraged to switch to vaping,” indicates the press release.

“We know that when someone vapes, their blood vessels react by temporarily constricting – or getting smaller which affects children while in the womb because their fetal environment is also altered,” Olfert said.

Olfert is the principal investigator for this study, which involves a team of three other School of Medicine faculty.

These faculty include Paul Chantler, Jonathan Boyd, and Duaa Dakhlallah.

Eiman Aboaziza, a student of Olfert’s, was also involved with the “initial research examining how vaping during pregnancy affects long-term health outcomes to offspring.”

“There is great concern that women who are switching to vaping during pregnancy because they think it is better than smoking are wrong, and that vaping will lead to the same problems and complications for offspring as smoking,” indicates the university.

Across the pond in the United Kingdom, organizations like Public Health England and the National Health Service have published medical guidance to practitioners to encourage pregnant women who are struggling with smoking addiction to switch to vaping as a dramatic change in consumption associated with their preferred nicotine delivery method.

“If using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke,” suggests an informational webpage from the NHS. Of course, the NHS points out that e-cigarettes aren’t without their risks and could impact the health of the mother and the fetus. However, the guidance from the UK government is literally day and night to what Olfert’s arguing. (Something to note, readers.)

The American Heart Association, a public health advocacy group that advocates for the total elimination of tobacco and nicotine-containing smoke-free products, awarded Olfert and his team at WVU’s School of Medicine a grant of $750,000 for a three-year period.

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