Kristin Kittell | Assistant Perspectives Editor

From the time of birth, we’re constantly receiving instruction. Brush your teeth after each meal and floss daily. Visit your doctor for regular check-ups and wash your hands before leaving the bathroom.

By the time you’re old enough to take care of yourself, these things are second nature. Some things we take up mistakenly and must rectify along the way. Lay off the high-fructose corn syrup — turns out it’s bad for you. There’s an ozone layer surrounding the Earth and aerosol cans are destroying it.

Other lessons are harder to learn. No matter how high the evidence is stacked — no matter the consequences — people continue in their habits, ignoring the damage it may cause. Don’t smoke while you’re pregnant, it hurts your child.

Women go to incredible lengths to protect their children while in the womb. We note the dangers of over the counter drugs, discontinuing even minimal use of aspirin. We abstain from luxuries like saunas and warm baths for fear of hypothermia. Somehow we muster up the self-control to manage our diets, limit our workloads and change our sleeping habits.

I’ve seen women rearrange their lives for the sake of their unborn loved ones, yet somehow selectively overlook the one thing which could potentially hurt them the most.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a mere 18 to 25 percent of women actually quit smoking once they become pregnant. If you manage to conceive despite the significant loss of fertility — smoking inhibits the movement of the egg — smoking while pregnant is one of the most appalling things you can do to your unborn child.

The CDC website lists several of the risks you take on by doing this: Statistically, smoking causes babies to be born with significantly lower birth weight. This is because smoking prevents the production of the enzyme eNOS, which regulates the blood flow to the fetus. The more a woman smokes, the lower the level of eNOS is and the more the fetus suffers because of it.

Not only is low birth weight one of the leading causes of infant deaths, but it may also continue to affect the child as it grows into adulthood. The USDA reports low birth rate has a direct connection to the development of heart disease and loss of liver function later in life.

The maladies associated with exposure to smoke while in the womb are numerous. Babies may develop asthma, bronchitis and may suffer from underdeveloped lungs and heart. But should the baby be born without defect, it could still be in danger. The CDC reports infants born to smokers are at three to four times at greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,.

Though the causes of this occurrence are unknown, the increase in incidences in children born to smokers is impossible to ignore. The CDC notes 438,000 Americans die each year due to either first hand or second hand smoke. For each of these, 20 more are living with smoking related illnesses.

Ignoring these statistics as a personal choice is excusable. Subjecting your child to these risks when they rely on you as a lifeline is both atrocious and negligent. The world will do its own damage over time. Protect your baby while you have the choice. TAS