Coastal Health Center Program Helping Black Moms Quit Smoking

Pass Christian resident Shalia Carter started smoking as a teenager—not unlike the more than 90 percent of smokers in the United States. When she became a mother and learned the harm smoking was having on her health and the health of her children, she decided to quit. Shalia joined the ranks of the 68 percent of adult smokers who say they want to quit smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But quitting isn’t easy. More than half of adult cigarette smokers attempt to quit each year, but fewer than one in ten are able to successfully quit. 

The negative health effects of smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke have been known for decades. However, most adult smokers who see a health professional don’t receive advice to quit. Fortunately, Shalia and other Black mothers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are able to access the Baby & Me – Tobacco Free Program™ at Coastal Family Health Center through the Healthy Families, Mothers, and Babies Initiative, which also supports the SHEA campaign. For Shalia, learning just how much harm smoking could cause her and her baby was the main reason she decided to quit.

Quitting smoking is one of the most important things pregnant women can do for their health and the health of their babies. As an incentive for participating in the Baby & Me program, mothers receive monthly diaper vouchers, which is an added bonus to the savings mother’s experience after quitting. Shalia is saving approximately $1,000 a year by quitting and plans to spend that money on clothes and food for her baby. She also feels healthier and has more energy. “I feel like I can do more with my kids because I’m not spending time smoking,” Shalia says.

Research shows smoking remains the most common preventable cause of pregnancy complications and death among infants. How and when Black women receive this support is also critical. Ruby Montgomery has worked directly with Shalia throughout the program, and Shalia’s experience proves that having healthcare providers and support professionals who understand Black women is important. “Every time I come in there, [Ruby] is excited to help me and asks me questions like she’s concerned about me,” says Shalia. “It makes me feel great because I feel like she cares.”

For more information regarding the Baby & Me  – Tobacco Free Program, visit the SHEA website at or contact Genevieve Youngblood at Coastal Family Health Center at or (228) 864-0003, ext. 1071. 

Find out more about the health benefits of breastfeeding, the importance of getting a flu vaccine, and more fun facts in our SHEA Breastfeeding Mini-Magazine.