The message that pregnant women who smoke affect their unborn children will be appearing soon on posters all over the wider Wanganui region, Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority chief executive Nancy Tuaine says.

When pregnant women smoke, their babies get some of the resulting poisons in the womb. They grow more slowly and are at greater risk of cot death, premature birth, glue ear and asthma.

"It's a big issue and sometimes, because the mums have smoked before in their pregnancies and the babies seemed to be okay, they think it's all right."

Asked to spread the non-smoking message by Whanganui District Health Board, Maori health providers are resorting to a social marketing campaign. The posters have positive messages in Maori and English, such as "He auahikore ahau, inahoki he taonga tuku iho taku pepe - I treasure my baby, I'm smokefree".


They will be going up in the next two weeks, and appear on social media and in doctors' surgeries and gyms.

Health providers will assess their effect, by asking pregnant women whether they were influenced. Women who decide to quit can access a kaupapa Maori smoking cessation service, by ringing 0800 004 504.

The posters aim to also influence the families of the mothers. They were designed by artist Cecelia Kumeroa, who teaches at Whanganui Ucol.

"What I love about this piece of work is the imagery is locally designed and it's quite effective," Ms Tuaine said.

The drive to influence pregnant women who smoke began last year. Providers first tried bringing women from as far away as Pipiriki, the Waimarino, Marton and Taihape to Wanganui for a smoking cessation programme, and following-up by visiting them in their homes. But the uptake wasn't high. The providers are hoping the poster messages will be more successful.