Pregnant women who smoke are easy targets for the morality police

Hands off! Since when did pregnant women's bodies become the domain of the morality police to be shamed and humiliated when they stray and have a cigarette or a glass of wine?

After TV personality and columnist Chrissie Swan felt obliged to 'fess up to lapsing back to smoking during her third pregnancy - she was snapped by the paparazzi in the act - social media lit up over who gets to throw the first stone - or not.

''This judgment of Chrissie Swan is ridiculous! Stop policing women's bodies and shaming them over every damn thing. Run your own body!'' tweeted @jevoislafemme.

Others were less sympathetic, calling her conduct ''disgraceful''.

For Chrissie, it was the fear of exposure that finally galvanised her to take action, her manager said.

''I have struggled terribly with totally giving up cigarettes since I found out I was pregnant,'' the Can of Worms host and Fairfax Media columnist said to her Mix 101.1 Melbourne radio audience in her segment, Is It Just Me.

''Up until about six years ago I was what you call a full-time smoker . . . then I got pregnant with Leo and I quit completely for a couple of years, which was fantastic. Now, sadly, I picked it up about a year ago and I was what I would call a 'not really smoker'.''

According to the NSW government website, some of the risks pregnant smokers face include ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, higher risk of a premature baby or a low birth weight or complications with the placenta.

There's no doubt it's bad for you. But even the most powerful man on the planet, Barack Obama, has wrestled with the habit. No one is calling him disgraceful.

''One of the first things I want to say is it's really important that we recognise for many people smoking is addictive. For some people it is very hard to quit, and so I think great credit to Chrissie Swan for speaking publicly about her concern,'' Curtin University's Professor Mike Daube, the President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, told Fairfax Media.

''A baby of low birth weight is likely to have more health problems later on.

''It increases the likelihood of asthma and other respiratory problems, so I think we need to recognise it's really important for pregnant mums that the best thing they can do is to quit.''

But a verbal flogging, as Chrissie received?

In the US, I experienced the raised eyebrows of wait staff when I ordered the occasional glass of wine with a meal while on holidays several years ago. Try doing a road trip pregnant and with a two-year-old in tow and see how you feel.

But where do strangers get off passing judgment? Being overweight and eating too much sugar is also a risk. Should we slap the jam doughnuts out of pregnant women's hands at the mall and send them to spin classes?

The fact is we tolerate tobacco and alcohol products despite overwhelming evidence that both pose significant health risks to those that consume them, pregnant or not.

Pregnant women face the same challenges as the rest of the community in kicking the habit and deserve support, not derision. They just happen to be easier targets for the morality police.

This story Pregnant women who smoke are easy targets for the morality police first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.