Government cuts threaten smoking services for pregnant mothers

Parts of England with high rates of smoking and deprivation could be adversely affected by cuts to public health budgets

An organisation made up of health and baby charities have called for an end to the cutting of smoking cessation services around England.

The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group reacted positively to the news smoking rates among pregnant women have reached government targets; but warned more needs to be done.

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre's Smoking at Time of Delivery report published on 16 June shows 10.6% of women were smoking at the end of their pregnancy in 2015-16 compared to 11.4% in 2014-15.

Regional variation

However, critics say these figures fail to account for variation across England and that women in areas with high rates of smoking and deprivation have still not kicked the habit by the time their babies are born.

They blame cuts to public health budgets nationally which mean less funds for vital smoking support services whose work quadruples the chances of quitting.

The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group has called for the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan to address the divide between rich and poor areas.

Investment needed

Group co-chair Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, said: ‘We must invest in a full range of measures or smoking in pregnancy rates will start to rise.

‘This cannot be done in a piecemeal way – we must ensure that fewer women are smoking when they become pregnant, more women are encouraged to quit quickly and greater support is offered to those who need it.’

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