22 June 2023: Government set to miss smoking in pregnancy target by nearly a decade, charities warn
Campaigners have warned that the Government is on track to miss its target to reduce the number of women who smoke during pregnancy by a decade.
In 2017, the Government set a target to reduce rates of maternal smoking to 6% by 2022.  However, new data for 2022/23 show that this target has been missed, with 8.8% of pregnant women smoking during this period. 
Modelling done by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group shows that the 6% target won’t be reached until 2032 if maternal smoking rates continue to decline at the same rate they have since 2015. The Group is calling on the Government to publish a comprehensive strategy to tackle smoking across the whole population, with specific measures to address smoking during pregnancy.
In April, the Government announced a national financial incentive scheme which will be offered to all pregnant women who smoke by the end of 2024.  However, ministers have abandoned previous commitments to publish a new Tobacco Control Plan and have instead said that further unspecified measures will be announced in the Major Conditions Strategy.
Professor Linda Bauld, Director of the SPECTRUM Research Consortium and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said:
"While we welcome recent declines in maternal smoking rates, progress simply isn’t happening fast enough.
"We urgently need the Government to set out a bold strategy to get us on track to giving every child a smokefree start by 2040. This means raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21 to reduce smoking among younger mums who are much more likely than older women to smoke during pregnancy.
"Helping more mums-to-be quit smoking would not only spare dozens of families from the heartbreak of losing their baby to stillbirth or miscarriage, but would also ease pressure on vital NHS services and put money spent on tobacco back in people’s pockets."
Dr Clea Harmer, Co-Chair Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group and Chief Executive of Sands, said:
"We are deeply concerned that the Government has missed their target of 6% or fewer pregnant women smoking by 2022 and isn’t on track to achieve it until the 2030s.
"The measures announced in April are an important step in the right direction, but they follow years of inaction and delay from successive Governments. The previous Tobacco Control Plan has now expired, leaving England with no target for reducing smoking among pregnant women.
"The Government urgently needs to publish a comprehensive strategy to tackle smoking among mums-to-be and the communities they live in. This should include a levy on tobacco companies to raise much-needed funding for tobacco control."
Notes to the editor
About the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group is a coalition of organisations committed to reducing rates of smoking in pregnancy.
The Group is a partnership between the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the voluntary sector and academia.
The Group is jointly chaired by Dr. Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, and Professor Linda Bauld of the SPECTRUM Research Consortium and the University of Edinburgh.
2 July 2019: Government risks missing ambition as rates of smoking during pregnancy not falling fast enough
New NHS data published today  shows that the Government is at risk of missing its target to reduce rates of smoking in pregnancy to 6% or less by 2022.  The Annual Smoking at Time of Delivery (SATOD) data show there has been no significant decline in rates of women smoking over the last year, with prevalence at 10.6% for 2018/19 compared to 10.8% in 2017/18.
Just 28 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have met the Government’s 6% ambition and there remains substantial geographical variation with 8 CCGs reporting SATOD rates of over 20%.
Dr Clea Harmer, Co-Chair Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group  and Chief Executive of Sands, said: “Today’s figures show a worrying lack of progress in supporting all women to have smokefree pregnancies. Smoking is a leading cause of still birth and neonatal death and without urgent action the Government is at risk of missing not only the ambition of the Tobacco Control Plan but also its aim to halve rates of still births, neonatal and maternal deaths by 2025.
"The Challenge Group is calling for increased support for women from disadvantaged backgrounds where smoking in pregnancy rates are highest. This should include greater use of financial incentive schemes, supporting women between pregnancies and providing support to fathers and other household members.”
Notes to the editor:
About the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group was established in 2012 in response to a challenge from the then Public Health Minister to produce recommendations on how the smoking in pregnancy ambition contained in the Government’s tobacco strategy could be realised.
The Group is a partnership between professional organisations, the voluntary sector and academia. It presented its report and recommendations to the Public Health Minister in June 2013 and continues to meet annually to review progress.
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group is jointly chaired by Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, and Professor Linda Bauld of UKCTAS and the University of Sterling.
Members of the Challenge Group are available for interview. For more information contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or firstname.lastname@example.org
 NHS Digital. Smoking at Time of Delivery England 2018/19. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-women-s-smoking-status-at-time-of-delivery-england/statistics-on-womens-smoking-status-at-time-of-delivery-england-quarter-4-january-2019-to-march-2019
 Department of Health and Social Care. Towards a Smokefree Generation: A tobacco control plan for England. 2017. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/630217/Towards_a_Smoke_free_Generation_-_A_Tobacco_Control_Plan_for_England_2017-2022__2_.pdf
 For more information about the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group see: https://smokefreeaction.org.uk/smokefree-nhs/smoking-in-pregnancy-challenge-group/
30 November 2018: Baby charity lead appointed as Co-Chair of smoking in pregnancy coalition
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group is pleased to welcome Dr Clea Harmer , Chief Executive of Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, to the role of Co-Chair. She is taking over from Francine Bates  who, along with Professor Linda Bauld , has been Co-Chair of the Challenge Group since its formation in 2012.
The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group is a partnership between a range of non-profit and academic organisations working in the fields of maternity and public health. The Challenge Group produces recommendations, guidance and resources for health professionals and policymakers to ensure that Government’s smoking in pregnancy ambition can be realised.
Francine has played a key role in directing the Challenge Group’s work to reduce smoking in pregnancy over the last six years. During her time as Co-Chair rates of smoking in pregnancy have declined from 13.2% to 10.4%, a reduction of one fifth, which has contributed to improved health outcomes for babies, mothers and families.
Francine Bates, Chief Executive of the Lullaby Trust, said:
“It has been a great privilege to Co-Chair the Smoking and Pregnancy Challenge Group and to be part of developing focused action on supporting women to quit smoking. For me, this work is vital as smoking in pregnancy is now the most significant modifiable risk factor in reducing sudden infant death. It has been a big collective effort so far and I look forward to watching that continue as we set our sights on reducing the numbers of pregnant women who smoke to below 6% by 2022.”
Professor Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse, Director of Maternity and Early years at Public Health England and PHE’s Smokefree Pregnancy Champion, said:
“The Challenge Group has been a key partner in the drive to reduce rates of smoking in pregnancy. Francine’s passion for improving outcomes for children and families has been fundamental to the delivery of this work. Clea brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the role and I look forward to working with her.”
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, who co-ordinate the Challenge Group, said:
“Francine’s contribution to this work over the last six years has been invaluable. Without her leadership we would not have made progress at the same rate. She has not only brought deep insights into the impact of smoking on families but a passion for partnership working that has made the Challenge Group possible.”
Professor Linda Bauld, University of Edinburgh and Deputy Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, said:
“The work of the Challenge Group has been essential in securing collaboration between professionals from academia, public health, and maternity to support women and families to quit smoking and remain smokefree. Francine has played a crucial role in this and I am delighted that Clea will now join me as Co-Chair to take forward the next phase of work.”
Although significant progress has been made in reducing rates of smoking in pregnancy over the last six years there is much more that needs to be done. There is now a serious risk that the Government’s much welcomed ambition of reducing rates of smoking in pregnancy to less than 6% by 2022 will be missed. Achieving this ambition would mean that around 30,000 fewer women would be smoking in pregnancy, resulting in fewer stillbirths, neonatal deaths, sudden infant deaths, preterm babies, and babies born at a low birth weight.
Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, said:
“I am honoured to take up the role of Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group alongside Professor Bauld and I am keen for us to build on the fantastic work that she and Francine Bates have done to help pregnant women to stop smoking. I am determined we do everything possible to support the Government in reducing rates of smoking in pregnancy to below 6% by 2022, so that more babies are born alive and go on to enjoy healthy smokefree lives with their families.”