Summer Hawkins, Ph.D.

Summer Hawkins, Ph.D.

Institution: Trustees of Boston College

Project: How Do Tobacco and Air Pollution Policies Impact Birth Outcomes?

Grant(s): Public Policy Research Award

Reducing exposure to tobacco smoke and air pollution during pregnancy and after birth is critical for improving birth outcomes and promoting healthy lung function. We will examine the impact of tobacco-control and air-quality policies on disparities in prenatal smoking and birth outcomes by using data on all U.S. births. We will evaluate the impact of tobacco-control policies--including state and local smoke-free legislation, e-cigarette legislation and age restriction policies--on birth weight and preterm birth. We will also evaluate in the impact of air quality policies on birth outcomes, including state-level incentives for electric/hybrid cars, renewable energy policies and vehicle idling policies as well as county-level coal and oil power plant closures, pollution abatement and fracking sites. The results will help inform policy decisions by showing the downstream effects of policies on the health of the most vulnerable mothers and infants.


We received 2005-2018 county-level birth certificate files on over 50 million babies across the U.S. We also acquired data on each of the main policy measures. We collated policies related to conventional cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems including state- and county-level taxes, smoke-free legislation, and age restriction policies. We also collected county-level air quality policies related to power plant closures, pollution abatement, and fracking sites. Linking county-level policies with birth certificate files will allow us to examine how tobacco control and air quality policy changes impact prenatal smoking and birth outcomes.

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