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More than one in 10 babies in England born to mums who smoke

But figures lowest since 2006-7; government looks to be on track to meet its 2015 target

Caroline White

Monday, 22 June 2015

More than one in 10 babies was born to a mother who was a smoker at the time of the birth, reveal the latest figures* on smoking and pregnancy, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

But the figures are the lowest on record, and suggest that the government is on track to meet its target of lowering smoking prevalence among pregnant women to 11% or less by the end of 2015.

The data show that 11.4% of pregnant women were recorded as smokers at the time of giving birth in 2014-15, representing 70,880 out of 622,640 pregnancies.

This is lower than the figure of 12% recorded for 2013-14, and continues the steady decline since 2006-07, when data were first collected, and which showed that over 15% of mothers were smokers at the time of giving birth.

Since 2006-07, the number of pregnancies has risen by 3.6% (from 601,260), while the number of women recorded as smokers at the time of giving birth has fallen by 22% (from 90,890).

Nevertheless, the figures show wide regional variation in the 12 months to March 2015.

Durham, Darlington and Tees Area Team recorded the highest prevalence, with one in five women (19.9%) reporting that they were smokers at the time of giving birth. This compares with one in 20 women (4.9%) recorded by the London Area Team.

Among clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), NHS Blackpool recorded the highest prevalence at 27.2% and NHS Central London (Westminster) the lowest at 2.1%.

Of the 211 CCGs in England, 43% (90 out of 211) have met the national ambition to reduce rates of smoking throughout pregnancy to 11% or less by the end of 2015.

Of the four Commissioning Regions, all of London’s CCGs (32) met the national ambition. This was followed by the South of England (28 out of 50 CCGs), and the Midlands and East of England (20 out of 61 CCGs).

The lowest proportion of CCGs to meet the national ambition (10 out of 68 CCGs) was in the North of England.

“Whilst the government appears to be on track to meet its current ambition, progress must not stop there,” said Francine Bates, Chief Executive of the Lullaby Trust and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group.

“Smoking in pregnancy remains a major risk factor in sudden infant deaths. When the Government publishes its new tobacco control strategy we want to see strong commitment to further action reduce smoking in pregnancy,” she added.

Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and Co-Chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, said the figures were “encouraging.”

But she warned: “Smoking in pregnancy is a major driver of health inequalities more must be done to help communities where smoking rates are highest. Local areas now face real challenges in achieving this in the light of recently announced cuts to local public health budgets.”


* Statistics on Women’s Smoking Status at Time of Delivery, England - Quarter 4, 2014-15. Health and Social Care Information Centre, 18 June 2015.

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