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Press Release

Rates of smoking in pregnancy see biggest single-year drop since data started being recorded

03 Jul 2024

New data from NHS digital shows that smoking rates among pregnant women have fallen to an all-time low, with the biggest drop in smoking rates since records began in 2006. The fall from 8.8% in 2022/23 to 7.3% in 2023/24 follows sustained investment to provide better quit support to women who smoke within their maternity care. [1] [2]

The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, a coalition campaigning for improved support to quit smoking during pregnancy, say that this drop shows what can be done with proper investment in evidence-based support.

In their manifesto, Labour have committed to build on this scheme and embed support to quit across all hospital services. [3] The evidence from smoking in pregnancy is that a properly funded scheme can make rapid progress in bringing rates down.

John Waldron, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) who coordinates the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, said:

"Following a long period of stagnation, we are witnessing record falls in rates of maternal smoking thanks to targeted interventions and support services. The integration of smoking cessation into routine care for pregnant women and people shows what can be achieved for smokers. It is welcome to see Labour commit in their manifesto to embed this approach more widely into hospital care.”

Over 6,000 fewer women are smoking during pregnancy as a result of the falling rates, protecting thousands of babies from the risks caused by smoking during pregnancy.

Clare Livingstone, Professional Policy Advisor with the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:

“We are thrilled to see record falls in smoking rates among pregnant women, a testament to the dedication and hard work of our maternity services. This achievement is a significant milestone in improving the health of mothers and babies. By integrating smoking cessation support into routine care, we are not only protecting the health of the current generation but also setting a strong foundation for the future. The collaboration between our midwives, healthcare professionals, and the wider community is truly making a difference, and we are committed to continuing this vital work to ensure even greater reductions in smoking rates among expectant mothers.”

A new financial incentive scheme to support women to quit smoking during pregnancy is also poised to be launched and should further decrease rates of maternal smoking. [4]

Professor Linda Bauld, Director of the SPECTRUM Research Consortium and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said:

"The planned introduction of financial incentives for pregnant women is a pioneering measure that will ensure we make further progress to significantly reduce smoking rates during pregnancy. This initiative offers crucial support for expectant mothers, encouraging healthier choices that benefit both mother and baby.

Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said:

“We urge the incoming UK government to commit to sustaining the financial incentives scheme which will have a profound long-term impact on maternal and infant health. Continued investment in such evidence-based interventions is essential for safeguarding the health of future generations and ensuring the well-being of families."

Notes to the Editor

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Contact: Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, and Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive, are available for media interviews.


[1] NHS Digital. Statistics on Women's Smoking Status at Time of Delivery: England, Quarter 4, 2023/24

[2] NHS Digital. Statistics on Women's Smoking Status at Time of Delivery: England, Quarter 4, 2022-23

[3] Change. Labour Party manifesto 2024.

[4] DHSC. Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation. November 2023.