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Pregnant women offered £400 to quit smoking

Written by: Emma Lunn
Pregnant smokers will be offered shopping vouchers worth up to £400 as part of the government's attempts to get people to stop smoking.

In a speech at Policy Exchange yesterday, health minister Neil O’Brien set out steps the government will take to cut smoking rates and tackle underage vaping.

A “swap to stop” scheme will encourage a million smokers to swap cigarettes for vapes, while pregnant women who smoke will be given up to £400 in shopping vouchers if they stop.

The government support will also include “behavioural support” to help smokers quit the habit.

The government is aiming for the UK being “smokefree” by 2030, by reducing smoking rates to 5% or less. Local authorities will be invited to take part in the scheme later this year and each will design a scheme which suits its needs, including deciding which populations to prioritise.

According to government figures, 9% of women still smoke in pregnancy. The government said that supporting more women to have a smokefree pregnancy will reduce the number of babies born underweight or underdeveloped with health problems requiring neonatal and ongoing care. It will also reduce the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

Cutting smoking rates in general will reduce the number of smoking-related illnesses needing to be treated, in turn reducing the pressure on the NHS.

Recently financial incentive schemes have been proven effective to increase the number of pregnant women successfully quitting. These schemes have been effective in a number of local areas, including Greater Manchester, which has seen the biggest drop-in maternal smoking rates over the past two years.

In trials women receiving financial incentives were more than twice as likely to quit. The return on investment for these schemes is £4 for every £1 invested.

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