In a pilot study, public hospitals in Paris will now offer money as an incentive for pregnant women to stop smoking. Via the Independent, the program offers pregnant women up to €300 (roughly $350), and is part of a broader initiative designed to reducing the smoking rate among pregnant women in the country.
According to National Institute of Prevention and Health Education (INPES), more pregnant women smoke in France than any other European nation. The agency estimates that roughly 17.8 percent—almost one in five—women smoke well into their third trimester. Marisol Touraine, the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, said in 2015 that France is “the European country where pregnant women smoke the most.” France, incidentally, also has one of the highest smoking rates in Europe.
There’s been a concerted effort in France to reducing the smoking rate of the general population, but in the last year, campaigns aimed at pregnant women have drastically increased. According to the Independent, the incentive program is part of a broader study which will determine whether or not financial incentives lower the prenatal smoking rates.
The program, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, hopes that money will keep women away from smoking both during and after their pregnancy. Expecting mothers who commit to the program will receive incremental €20 vouchers with a chance to earn €300 if they successfully complete the program. The program is completely optional, and women who join will undergo frequent testing to ensure they aren’t smoking.
The issue of smoking cessation programs aimed at pregnant women is, perhaps, more controversial in France than it is in the United States. In 2011, French academic and feminist Elisabeth Badinter argued in The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, that the discourse on smoking and drinking while pregnant existed in infantilizing extremes. The command “never smoke,” while pregnant, Badinter argued, “signaled the end of pleasure and freedom...the future mother no longer belongs to herself.” While Badinter’s point is philosophically compelling, the medical evidence on smoking, at least, is decidedly against her.
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