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25 June 2021, 08:55 | Updated: 25 June 2021, 08:58
A new NHS initiative could offer pregnant women up to £400 worth of shopping vouchers to give up smoking.
Pregnant women could be given £400 worth of shopping vouchers to quit smoking.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England claim the financial incentives are ‘effective and cost effective’.
Their guidance says women must join an NHS Stop Smoking Service and pass carbon monoxide breath tests to prove they have stopped smoking before receiving the vouchers.
But experts added if testing is too difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic, vouchers should be offered anyway.
Expectant mums could get a maximum of £400, which would be £10 a week.
While NICE has not confirmed what kind of vouchers would be given, it is thought they could be for high street shops or supermarkets.
Deborah Arnott, chief of Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Vouchers are an obvious one because they’ve been used in a number of different places.
"It reinforces the idea that quitting is a positive step forward.
“You need to be given advice and help and support as well, but there’s research to show it works.”
MP Bob Blackman, who chairs a government anti-smoking group, added: “Despite all our best efforts the proportion of pregnant women who smoke has barely changed in recent years.
“It’s only where voucher schemes combined with help to quit have been put in place that smoking in pregnancy is going down.”
Experts claim the scheme could persuade 177 out of 1,000 pregnant women to quit smoking and have sent the suggestion for ministers to consider.
It also said all smokers should be given ‘clear and up-to-date information’ on e-cigarettes and vaping.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of Nice's centre for guidelines, said: "These draft guideline recommendations are a renewed effort to reduce the health burden of smoking and to encourage and support people to give up smoking.
"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 vitally important that we reduce the level of smoking in this country.
"We know that around 10% of women are known to be smokers at the time of giving birth and, 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 smoking.
"We need to use every tool in our arsenal to reduce smoking rates, including education, behavioural support, financial incentives, and e-cigarettes if people are interested in using them.
"Combined, we hope that people who smoke will feel enabled to give up tobacco products once and for all."