Recently, a cashier with a round, pregnant belly raced back to her post after a smoke break and explained to her customer that she was sneaking cigarettes when the baby’s father would not notice. She seemed oblivious to the harm her addiction could be causing the child.

But now there is a new way for mothers to gently break the cigarette habit, and it comes at a time when medical experts are finding increasingly alarming reasons for pregnant women to wean themselves from nicotine and tobacco.

The cigarette cessation product called Bravo provides a placebo smoke that contains no nicotine or tobacco, allowing the mother to cease taking in these harmful and addictive products, while avoiding the extra stress of not holding a cigarette or lighting up.

Just as a child finds comfort in a favorite blanket or toy, many smokers find their empty hands terribly hard to deal with. The Bravo smoke fills this void and allows the mother to focus on reshaping a healthier lifestyle for herself and her child.

The child may be the biggest beneficiary in this. The medical journal “Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery” reported that smoking leads to an increased risk of having babies with webbed fingers and toes, and missing or extra fingers and toes. The study concluded that smoking half a pack a day increased the risk of having a baby with digit abnormalities by 29 percent. The study, which looked at live births in the United States in 2001 and 2002, recorded 5,171 infants with such defects.

Additional cigarettes bring even more alarming results, increasing the child’s risk by as much as 78 percent. These defects can lead to surgery and other unwanted complications for the infant.

Digits are formed in the earliest part of pregnancy, so damage could be done before a woman knows she is pregnant. This possibility, coupled with the overwhelming scientific evidence that all cigarette smokers and their families are harmed by the addiction, provides a sound argument to begin a cessation program.

Created by pharmacist Puzant Torigian, chairman and founder of Safer Smokes Inc., the Bravo smoke replaces the usual, toxic cigarette with a non-addictive alternative made from enzyme-treated lettuce leaves. It is the only clinically tested, non-nicotine smoking product available, Torigian said.