Herts County Council to trial 'paying' pregnant women to stop smoking
PUBLISHED: 16:10 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:23 15 November 2019
Pregnant women are to be 'paid' to stop smoking as part of a £49,500 public health pilot scheme in Hertfordshire.
Next year, Herts County Council will introduce a pilot scheme that will 'pay' pregnant women up to £300 in food, baby clothing or equipment vouchers in a bid to get them to stop smoking.
As part of the scheme any pregnant women who agreed to set a quit date would immediately receive £50 in vouchers.
If they could prove they had successfully stopped after four weeks - by taking a carbon monoxide monitoring test - they would qualify for a further £50 of vouchers, with £100 worth coming after 12 and then 34 weeks.
The county council agreed to set aside £49,500 to fund the 15 month trial at a meeting of the public health and prevention cabinet panel yesterday.
Director of public health, Jim McManus said: "The consequences of smoking in pregnancy can be devastating to the family, and can impact on the health of an individual throughout infancy, childhood and as an adult.
"Helping pregnant women to give up smoking is one of the most important things we can do to reduce the risk of harm and improve the health of babies for now and in the future."
At the meeting the approach was broadly supported by councillors from all parties, including executive member for public health and prevention Cllr Tim Hutchings.
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However Labour councillor Margaret Eames-Petersen suggested the financial incentives may encourage some women to 'start' smoking to qualify for the £300.
She said: "We are wanting them to give up smoking - not take up smoking so they can get the payent."
But she was reassured there was no evidence that this had been the case in a previous pilot elsewhere.
Data shown to the cabinet shows that 5.8 per cent of women (735) continued to smoke throughout their pregnancies in Hertfordshire last year, a lower number than the national average of 10.8 per cent.
At the meeting councillors heard that women who smoked during pregnancy were often stigmatised.
Typically, the women may be young and from a lower socio-economic group, have poor educational attainment and a poor understanding of the risks smoking poses to their unborn baby.
It was also reported they find it harder to quit because pregnant women metabolise nicotine 60 per cent faster than other smokers.
In 2018/19, the stop smoking service helped 2567 smokers to successfully quit - including 85 pregnant smokers.
The cost of the service, at £250 per quit, is lower than the national average of £499 across England.