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Pregnant women could be given shopping vouchers worth up to £400 if they quit smoking, under NHS guidelines.
Health officials suggest that mothers-to-be undergo carbon monoxide tests to prove they have given up.
But they say that if the tests cannot be carried out because of the pandemic, the vouchers should be handed out anyway.
It is the first national guidance to recommend that pregnant women should receive publicly funded vouchers for quitting smoking, although several councils have carried out trials of similar schemes.
Pregnant women are smoking and drinking in private because they are ‘irritated’ by people’s reactions to the habits which are known to harm unborn babies, a study has found
Approximately 10 per cent of expectant mothers are known smokers at the time of giving birth and they are at much greater risk of going into labour prematurely, having a stillbirth or their baby suffering a cot death.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England (PHE), which produced the draft guidelines, claim previous research has found that for every 1,000 pregnant women offered vouchers, 177 would stop smoking.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of Nice’s centre for guidelines, said: ‘Smoking continues to take a huge toll on the health of the nation and accounts for approximately half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society. It is therefore vital that we reduce the level of smoking.
‘Given the significant health effects of smoking on both mothers and babies, it is clear that further efforts are required to encourage this group to give up. We need to use every tool in our arsenal to reduce smoking rates, including education, financial incentives and e-cigarettes.’
The guidelines say pregnant women should be referred to the voucher scheme during their first appointment with their GP or midwife.
Vouchers would be handed out at intervals after a woman has taken a carbon monoxide test to prove she has not smoked recently. The total value of the vouchers available to a woman who does not smoke throughout the pregnancy would be £400.
Carbon monoxide testing may not always be possible during the pandemic. ‘Vouchers are recommended even if biochemical validation is not possible,’ the guidelines say.
If the draft recommendations are adopted after consultation with medical experts and policy officials, Nice and PHE will issue them to local councils and health trusts.
The money for the vouchers is likely to come from NHS or council budgets, depending on how the scheme is run in each area.
Source: Daily Mail