EMPORIA, Kan. (KSNT) — The impacts smoking has on pregnant women and their babies can be devastating. Today, Lyon County is seeing a high amount of moms turning to tobacco.

“Lyon County has over 12 percent of its moms who smoke, which is over the average in Kansas.  So it’s really important for us to give those babies a healthier chance.  Because we know by them quitting smoking, they are more likely to be born at term and a higher birth rate,” said Heather Alyward, the coordinator of Baby and Me Tobacco Free at Newman Regional Health.

But the negative health impacts of smoking, don’t stop there.

Alyward says babies “can be born early and have more complications just from being born early.  Prematurity can even lead to death if they’re born too early.  And then after they’re born they’re likely to have more ear infections, colds, more likely to die from SIDS if there is smoking in the home.  So there are just multiple affects in uterus to childhood, asthma, all of those complications from smoking.”

The nationwide program Baby and Me Tobacco Free is offered at Newman Regional Health in Emporia.  Women who sign up for the program have to attend four sessions during their pregnancy, each lasting about a half hour.  Then after their baby is born, they need to attend a monthly session for a year.

During the sessions, Alyward says moms will, “go over the development and the money they are saving by not buying cigarettes.  I think our last patient saved over $1,800 by not smoking during pregnancy.”

Alongside the counseling and support each mom receives, the women have to take a test to prove they’re not smoking.

“They have to agree to do a carbon monoxide test, which is just almost like a breathalyzer. They blow into a tube and it measures their co2 level.  So that’s their accountability,” said Bobby Johnson, a registered nurse at Newman Regional Health.  “So if they come back and blow a high number it means they’ve been smoking.  It means they have to hold themselves accountable because they know they have to blow a certain number to continue the program,”

The Emporia program is in its second year, and is already making a difference.

“We have had three moms complete the program and stay smoke-free their entire pregnancy and 12 months after,” Alyward said. “They said just by knowing they are coming here monthly is really holding them accountable.”

There’s also an additional financial bonus to the program.  Moms and their spouses who attend the monthly sessions, will receive a $25 voucher for diapers each month.