Pregnant Women In France Paid More Than £200 To Quit Smoking

Pregnant women in France will be offered money to quit smoking, as part of a trial to see if financial incentives help motivate smokers to kick the habit.

Mums-to-be who commit to quitting will be paid in €20 vouchers (redeemable in high street shops) at hospital appointments, with the chance to collect up to €300 (approximately £230) if they do not start smoking again.

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Action on Smoking & Health (ASH UK) told The Huffington Post UK that investigations into how to help pregnant women quit smoking are of vital importance.

“Smoking rates among pregnant women in Europe remain far too high leading to avoidable miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths and babies born in poor health," she said.

"There is a growing body of evidence that well-designed voucher schemes, in which the right support is provided alongside incentives, not only increase the quit rate among pregnant women but are highly cost effective.”

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The study, by Paris’s public hospital system in association with the National Cancer Institute, is investigating whether offering pregnant women money will help motivate them to avoid all tobacco throughout their pregnancy.

Participants must submit to regular testing to prove they are not using cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, or other tobacco products.

Expectant mothers who are aged over 18, have been pregnant for less than four months and who smoke at least five ready-made, or three hand-rolled, cigarettes a day can apply to take part at one of 17 hospitals involved in the study.

France's ministry of health and social affairs released figures in 2015 that revealed 17.8% of women in the country smoke while pregnant.

The coalition of health groups and charities revealed in October 2015 that despite the percentage of women in the UK who smoke while pregnant falling to 11%, cigarettes were still causing around 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 stillbirths every year.

Dr Helen Webberley GP for told The Huffington Post UK that she believes financial incentives are not the answer to stopping pregnant women smoking.

"These women should take responsibility for themselves, for their unborn child, and for any existing children at home," she said.

"We all know the risks of smoking, there is just no excuse at all to not consider the foetus here.

"It is illegal to smoke in cars and confined public places, perhaps it should be illegal for the foetus to passively smoke in the confines of the womb?

"In terms of paying pregnant women to stop smoking, the public purse is strapped for cash and bursting at the seams so, no I do not think that financial incentive is the right direction here in the UK.

"Surely having a healthy child should be incentive enough?"

Pregnant women who would like to quit smoking are advised that no matter how far into your pregnancy you are, it is never too late to make the decision to give up cigarettes.

The sooner you quit the better, but even if you only stop in the last few weeks of your pregnancy your baby will still benefit.

Some medications used to help people stop smoking are not safe during pregnancy, but there are many quitting aids that mums-to-be can use safely.

Dr Nitin Shori, GP partner and medical director of the Pharmacy2U online doctor service, told The Huffington Post UK:

"The safest way to give up smoking during pregnancy is to use one of the many nicotine replacement products, including gums, patches and inhalators.

"Available either over the counter, from a pharmacist, or from a GP, they are much safer than continuing to smoke cigarettes and exposing yourself and your unborn child to the many toxins that are present within tobacco smoke.”

The NHS offers free specialist support to help you stop smoking while pregnant. You can ask your midwife, GP or local pharmacist for more information, or call the NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 123 1044 (open 9am-8pm Monday to Friday and 11am-5pm at weekends).

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