Baby charity lead appointed as Co-Chair of smoking in pregnancy coalition

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 [1], Chief Executive of Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, to the role of Co-Chair. She is taking over from Francine Bates [2] who, along with Professor Linda Bauld [3], 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.”