Smoking in pregnancy: NHS fails women

Thursday 10 September 1998

ASH/ Press releases/


16 Fitzhardinge Street,London W1H 9PL Tel: 0171 224 0743 Fax: 0171 224 0471

Press releaseEmbargo 00:01 11th September 1998 ASH
Action on Smoking
and Health

Smoking in pregnancy – NHS fails women

Commenting on the BMJ article [1] showing a disheartening trend insmoking during preganancy, ASH drew attention to the clear failure of NHS primary care tohelp women quit smoking during pregnancy. The BMJ article shows that less than half ofwomen smokers receive any sort of advice or intervention from the health workers theyencounter during pregnancy.

ASH argues that the NHS response to smoking in pregnancy (and in general) is “adhoc and patchy” and that primary carers such as GPs, practice nurses, midwives, andother health professionals will often avoid raising the question of smoking because it maybe controversial and cause antagonism.

“The NHS basically fails to tackle smoking during pregnancy. Like the whole NHS approach to smoking it is ad hoc, patchy and based on the enthusiasm or indifference of the people involved.” said Clive Bates, Director of ASH

ASH called for the treatment of smoking to be taken seriously by the NHS by having itincluded in contracts between purchasers and providers in the Health Service:

“The only way you can have smoking in pregnancy taken seriously is to write it into the priorities and contracts that now govern what really happens in the NHS. This means it shouldn’t just be left to chance, but that primary carers should have an obligation to tackle smoking,” said Bates.

Treatment of smoking could take many forms, but advice, encouragement, a properdiscussion of the dangers, and prescription of nicotine replacement therapy (patches andgum) would be a good basis for a core NHS response.

  1. Owen L., McNeill A., Callum, C. Trends in smokingduring pregnancy in England, 1992-7: quota sampling surveys. BMJ Vol 317, p.728. 12September 1998



Contact Clive Bates, Director 0171 224 0743 or 0181 800 1336 (hm), 0468 791237 (mbl best on Sun.)
Amanda Sandford, Communications Director 0171 224 0743 or 0181 257 3501 (hm)

RegisteredCharity No 262067
Action on Smoking and Health is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No998971. Registered address as above