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Pregnant women may be unaware of possible e-cigarette risks

 In a small U.S. study, nearly half of all pregnant women surveyed did not think electronic cigarettes contain nicotine or know that the devices can be addictive.

Almost half of the group of 316 pregnant women also believed e-cigarettes were less harmful to their fetuses than traditional cigarettes, when in fact the safety of using e-cigarettes while pregnant has not been determined, researchers say.

Victoria Coleman-Cowger, one of the study's authors, said in an email that while e-cigarette use has increased considerably over the past few years, many people, including pregnant women, are not well informed about them.

"Our hope . . . was to gain a better understanding of how and how much e-cigarettes are being used by pregnant women, perceptions surrounding their use (including perceived risks of use), and motivations for use," said Coleman-Cowger, the principal research scientist atBattelle Public Health Center for Tobacco Research in BaltimoreMaryland.

The study team recruited pregnant women being treated at a University of Maryland outpatient clinic for an anonymous survey. Participants answered questions about their smoking history, knowledge about the harms of cigarettes and e-cigarettes and their attitudes toward e-cigarettes.

The researchers found that 42 women, or 13 percent of participants, said they had ever used e-cigarettes, while only 2 women reported currently using e-cigarettes daily.

Among those who had ever used e-cigarettes, three out of four women said they did so because the devices were less harmful than traditional cigarettes and about the same number said they used the devices to help them quit smoking.