New report calls for Government action as smoking in pregnancy rates are feared to be stalling
On the morning new Government data on smoking in pregnancy is published  (Tuesday 3rd July 2018) the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, a coalition of health and maternity organisations, calls for bold Government action to tackle smoking in pregnancy.
Their new report  shines light on the progress towards the Government’s ambition to reduce the smoking in pregnancy rate to less than 6% by 2022  and warns that unless more is done this ambition is unlikely to be met.
The report includes a new analysis  estimating the positive impact of achieving the Government’s stated ambition. It estimates that in 2022 this would mean that around 30,000 fewer women would be smoking in pregnancy. Leading to:
- 45 – 73 fewer babies stillborn
- 11 – 25 fewer neonatal deaths
- 7 – 11 fewer sudden infant deaths
- 482 – 796 fewer preterm babies and
- 1455 – 2407 fewer babies born at a low birth weight.
Avoiding these tragic outcomes will only be possible if rates of smoking in pregnancy come down.
The report is released on the same day as official Government figures on the rates of smoking in pregnancy are due to be published. There are concerns these figures will show no change in rates of smoking among pregnant women for over a year.
The Challenge Group makes a number of recommendations to increase the pace of change including:
- National action to ensure that all areas have evidence-based services and processes in place to identify, refer and support pregnant women who smoke to quit and address the large variation in performance around the country.
- Increase support for women from disadvantaged backgrounds where smoking in pregnancy rates are highest. This should include greater use of incentive schemes, supporting women between pregnancies and providing support to fathers and other household members.
- Increase use of alternative sources of nicotine to support pregnant women in their quit attempts. Health professionals and women often hold misconceptions about using Nicotine Replacement Therapy and e-cigarettes as part of quit attempts.
- Address gaps in training for midwives, obstetricians and health visitors. Stopping smoking is part of ensuring a safe pregnancy and should be a basic part of training.
Commenting on the report, Francine Bates, Chief Executive, The Lullaby Trust and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said:
“This report should be a wake-up call. On the current trajectory, the Government will miss its ambition to reduce rates of smoking among pregnant women with tragic consequences. We have made real progress in the past in helping women to have smokefree pregnancies and we must be ambitious about what can be achieved in the future to protect thousands of families from entirely preventable and heartbreaking outcomes.”
Prof. Linda Bauld, University of Stirling and Deputy Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group added:
“There is great evidence about what can help reduce smoking in pregnancy, but we are simply not using this evidence to provide support to all women. At the very least every woman should receive care that meets the guidance set out by NICE. But we should go further and integrate this with wider use of incentive schemes, greater support to help Dad’s to quit and ensure that women have access to nicotine products that can help make their quit attempt a success.”
ASH Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said:
“We are deeply concerned that lack of progress in supporting pregnant women to quit indicates that the system is not working for pregnant smokers. There have been big cuts to the support available to all smokers to help them quit both within the NHS and from local authorities. It is right that there should be more targeted support to help women in pregnancy but that support must also be there before and after they have had a baby.”
Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives said:
“As a profession we are committed to ensuring the women we care for have the safest possible pregnancy. Stopping smoking is part of achieving this. However, the provision in place around the country is not consistent. Some Midwives have access to excellent training, the equipment they need and have high quality stop smoking services available for the women they support. Investment is needed to ensure that this is universal.”
The Challenge Group is also publishing resources to support training of midwives and other health professionals to address smoking in pregnancy. These will also be available for the Challenge Group webpage from Tuesday morning: www.smokefreeaction.org.uk/smokefree-nhs/smoking-in-pregnancy-challenge-group/
Notes and Links:
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 Francine Bates, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust, 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 out of hours Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.
 Annual Smoking at Time of Delivery data is due to be published at 9.30 am on Tuesday 3rd July by NHS Digital this data is available down to local level. It will provide an annual figure for the rate of smoking in pregnancy for 2017/18. Data to Q3 for 2017/18 have already been published here: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-women-s-smoking-status-at-time-of-delivery-england/statistics-on-women-s-smoking-status-at-time-of-delivery-england-quarter-3-2017-18
 Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, A Review of the Challenge, 2018. The full report is available on request and will be live here Tuesday morning: www.smokefreeaction.org.uk/smokefree-nhs/smoking-in-pregnancy-challenge-group/
 Department of Health, Towards a Smokfree Generation; Tobacco Control Plan for England, 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/towards-a-smoke-free-generation-tobacco-control-plan-for-england
 The Lullaby Trust has undertaken this analysis on behalf of the Challenge Group with funding from Tommy’s, Sands, Tamba and ASH. The Lullaby Trust raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), provides expert advice on safer sleep for babies and offers emotional support for bereaved families. The full analysis and methodology is available on request and will be live here Tuesday morning: www.smokefreeaction.org.uk/smokefree-nhs/smoking-in-pregnancy-challenge-group/