A new pilot program in France will attempt to get women to not smoke during pregnancy the old-fashioned way: by paying them.
French health minister Marisol Touraine recently said that France is “the European country where pregnant women smoke the most,” and recent figures estimate that about 17 percent — or one in five — French women don’t cut out the puffing during pregnancy, though it’s widely known to directly harm fetuses and is one of the leading causes of low birth weights for newborns.
The study, which will be conducted by France’s public hospital system and overseen by the National Cancer Institute, will pay women over the age of 18 who are under four months pregnant and smoke more than five cigarettes per day to stop, under supervision and with regular testing to ensure abstinence. The amount will be paid out in increments of €20 vouchers, which could add up to €300 if they do not begin again for the duration of the pregnancy.
For comparison, it’s estimated that roughly one in ten American women smokes through her pregnancy. Smoking continues to be more socially acceptable in France than in many other European countries, with 31 percent of the adult population smoking, as compared to 28 percent of Europeans at large and 14 percent of Americans.
In the United States, it’s now even commonly controversial when a woman has an alcoholic drink during pregnancy — though recent steps in NYC, for example, are moving toward allowing women to make those calls for themselves. In France, a 2008 study found, more than half of pregnant women drank alcohol.