4. Explore partner smoking

There is evidence that partners and family members play a powerful role in influencing whether pregnant women quit smoking and are able to maintain abstinence in the postpartum period. Compared to pregnant women who live with non-smokers, those who live with a partner who smokes are less likely to stop smoking during pregnancy and more likely to relapse during the postpartum period.

If a partner is resistant to quitting smoking, encouraging the woman to ask her partner to quit with her may cause tension in the relationship. In other cases, the woman is pressured by her partner to quit, making her process more difficult. Considering the possible stress that smoking cessation may put on a woman’s relationship (with the possibility for elevated frustration and anger), partner cessation should be considered and supported separately from the woman’s own attempt to quit.

Practice Tips

  • Address partner smoking, but separately from the woman

    You might ask: Is your partner thinking about quitting or modifying smoking behaviour? How does your partner feel about your present decision to try to quit smoking?
  • Don’t assume that the pregnant woman’s partner will want her to quit smoking

    Remember that the woman may or may not have a partner present in her life, and if present, the partner may not be supportive about the pregnancy or about the woman’s attempt to quit smoking.
  • Remember that a partner may be male or female


Couples and Smoking

How Do I Want to Be Supported?

The I’m a STAR! Journal for moms who smoke and want to protect their kids from secondhand smoke

Further Reading

Bottorff, J. L., Kalaw, C., Johnson, J. L., Stewart, M., Greaves, L., and Carey, J. (2006). Couple dynamics during women’s tobacco reduction in pregnancy and postpartum. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 8(4), 499-509. PMID: 16920647

Bottorff, J. L., Carey, J., Poole, N., Greaves, L., & Urquhart, C. (2008). Couples and smoking: What you need to know when you are pregnant. Vancouver, BC: Jointly published by the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women's Health, the Institute for Health Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, University of British Columbia Okanagan, and NEXUS, University of British Columbia Vancouver. ISBN 978-1-894356-61-9

Gage, J.D., Everett, K.D., and Bullock, L. (2007). A review of research literature addressing male partners and smoking during pregnancy. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 36(6): 574-580. PMID: 17973701 DOI: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2007.00188.x

Back to 5 ways to Change Your Practice

  • Resources for Health Care Providers
  • Breastfeeding and Harm Reduction

    Nicotine is water and lipid-soluble & hence can be secreted in breast milk.

    The concentration of nicotine in breast milk will vary depending on how many cigarettes have been smoked since the last breastfeeding and how much time has passed since the mother has last smoked a cigarette.

    Health Canada recommendations clearly indicate that smoking is not a contraindication to breastfeeding.


Quitting smoking and finding reasons to quit smoking are easier with the support of others. Visit our Facebook page to connect with other mothers and mothers-to-be who are finding ways to stop, reduce, or quit smoking.