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Smokefree generation could drive decrease in maternal smoking rates at the time of delivery

Thursday, 18 April 2024 16:14

By Barbara Constable

Proposed changes to tobacco legislation – which are being debated in Parliament today – could be "the catalyst that drives decreases in maternal smoking rates further and faster than ever before", according to the local NHS.

Although there has been a significant reduction in the number of people reporting as smokers at the time of delivery in Humber and North Yorkshire, the region still has some of the highest rates of smoking in pregnancy in the country.

Scott Crosby, Associate Director of the Humber and North Yorkshire Centre for Excellence in Tobacco Control, said: “Smoking tobacco is the single most entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability, and death in the country, responsible for 64,000 deaths a year. No other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of its users.

“Even though smoking prevalence has dropped, the Humber and North Yorkshire region still has some of the highest in the country and the Centre for Excellence recognises the urgent need to save lives and reduce health inequalities caused by smoking tobacco. 

“With the government’s Smokefree Generation bill on the horizon, this could be the catalyst that drives decreases in maternal smoking rates further and faster than ever before.”

NHS England data shows that 9.4% of people who gave birth in Humber and North Yorkshire in 2023/24 were smokers, compared to 12.9% the previous year. The reduction means that there were an additional 120 smoke-free pregnancies.

The change has been made possible due to targeted initiatives by the Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, in line with national tobacco control strategies. This has seen dedicated maternity tobacco dependency treatment services introduced at all hospital Trusts as a routine part of midwifery care, in line with the NHS long term plan.

Becky Case, Local Maternity and Neonatal System Programme Lead for Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, said: “The introduction of Trust based maternity Tobacco Dependency Treatment services has been an asset to our Midwifery Teams, who do an outstanding job of supporting our service users to have a healthy pregnancy.

“The addition of in-house maternity tobacco dependency treatment teams to deliver expert behavioural support alongside nicotine replacement medication means our service users are getting better and more personalised care.

“Smoking in pregnancy is a major risk factor for stillbirth, miscarriage and sudden infant death syndrome – treating tobacco dependence is crucial to support happier, healthier pregnancies therefore it makes perfect sense this is now a routine part of maternity care.” 

Gillian Cunningham, Tobacco Dependency Advisor at York and Scarborough Hospitals, said: “It’s amazing to help people become smokefree, knowing it will make not only their future healthier and happier, but that of their whole family.

“I never judge anyone, because I’ve been there – I smoked through my pregnancies, and I didn’t know just how harmful it was or how to stop. It’s great to work hand in hand with midwives to share my experiences and help other people get tobacco out of their lives.

“With the tobacco and vapes bill on the cards, and the support systems in place within maternity services to help those who smoke to stop to give the next generation the best possible start in life, a smokefree future is within our reach.”

The prevalence of smoking in pregnancy in the Humber and North Yorkshire region is some of the highest in the country. Whilst the national average is 7.3%, in Hull it is 15.2% and in North East Lincolnshire it is 13.3%.

Tobacco control has been a leading focus for NHS Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB). Alongside the accelerated rollout of tobacco dependency treatment services into hospitals, a ground-breaking, regional Tobacco Control Centre for Excellence has been established, connecting partners to a shared vision of a smokefree future.

Free support to stop smoking is available for everyone on the NHS Better Health website.

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