A reversal of public health cuts is essential to help pregnant women stop smoking, the Royal College of Midwives has said.
The call comes as NICE and Public Health England publish a draft guideline to tackle the health burden of smoking. The draft guideline also recommends that, in addition to pharmacological and behavioural support, pregnant women who are referred to a stop-smoking service should be offered vouchers to encourage them to stop smoking.
‘Reducing smoking in pregnancy is key to reducing stillbirths and will also have real benefits for the health of women and their babies in also reducing other poor outcomes associated with smoking,’ said Clare Livingstone, professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives.
Read more: Women’s health
‘This is why it is critical that they get the support they need to stop smoking in as many ways as possible, and that we have the staffing and resources to do this. If the Government are really serious about reducing smoking rates, this means reversing cuts to public health funding which has seen many stop smoking services close. All of this must also be as part of a broader package of support around the woman and her family throughout and beyond pregnancy.’
According to the guideline, vouchers should only be provided when smoking abstinence is validated by a biochemical test such as a carbon monoxide test. Providers of stop-smoking support services should ensure these vouchers cannot be used to purchase products, such as cigarettes or alcohol, that are harmful in pregnancy.
‘E-cigarettes and incentives are some of the tools we have to encourage women to stop smoking,’ added Ms Livingstone.
Read more: Smoking cessation
‘We do back their use because they are proven to work. However, the use of carbon monoxide testing to support the voucher schemes must be done with sensitivity towards the woman, who will already be struggling with this addiction while also having to cope with the pressures and demands of her pregnancy.’