Charities call for Government action to maintain progress on smoking in pregnancy rates
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group , a coalition of health and baby charities, today welcomed the news that smoking rates among pregnant women have continued to fall but warned that progress could be jeopardised if services to help people quit continue to be cut around the country.
Smoking at Time of Delivery data , published by the Government today, shows that 10.6% of women were smoking at the end of their pregnancy in 2015/16 compared to 11.4% in 2014/15. This means the Government has met its ambition to reduce smoking rates among pregnant women to less than 11% by 2015. However, these figures hide the variation between different parts of the country. Areas where smoking rates and deprivation are high have rates many times that of more affluent areas.
In many places local authorities and local maternity services have been working hard to encourage more pregnant women to quit. However, cuts to the public health budget nationally means there are fewer resources available locally to fund vital quit smoking support which can improve a person’s chances of quitting by up to four times.
Reducing rates of smoking in pregnancy has been an important Government priority with ambitions in the last Tobacco Control Plan for England . It is also key to achieving other priorities such as the Government’s commitment to halve the number of still born babies . The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group have called on Government to include strong new ambitions in the forthcoming new Tobacco Control Plan and to end the difference in rates between rich and poor areas .
Professor Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at University of Stirling and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group 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.”
Francine Bates, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said:
“Higher smoking rates among poorer pregnant women is a major cause of inequality. Investment in services to support women to quit is needed by every local authority. If we do not support women to quit when they become pregnant we are locking in a lifetime of inequality.”
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, Action on Smoking and Health said:
“There has been significant progress in reducing the numbers of women smoking during pregnancy. The new Tobacco Control Plan should set an ambitious vision for reducing rates further and clearly identify how this can be achieved.”
 The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group was set up in 2012 following a challenge from the then Public Health Minister. It is coalition of organisations and is co-ordinated by Action on Smoking and Health: http://www.smokefreeaction.org.uk/SiP.html
 Statistics on Women’s Smoking Status at Time of Delivery, England – Quarter 4, 2015-16 http://bit.ly/1UaHBu1
 The Tobacco Control Plan for England ran between 2011 and 2015 and included the ambition to reduce rates of smoking in pregnancy to less than 11% by 2015.
 In November 2015 the Government announced plans to halve the number of stillbirths and infant deaths by 2030: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-ambition-to-halve-rate-of-stillbirths-and-infant-deaths Smoking is a major cause of stillbirths and infant death – estimated to be responsible for a third of perinatal deaths: ASH Factsheet on Smoking and Reproduction
 The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group published a report in October 2015 calling for new Government targets to reduce smoking rates among pregnant women alongside a comprehensive range of measures: Smoking Cessation in Pregnancy: A review of the Challenge