New figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show the prevalence of women giving birth who classed themselves as smokers is 12 per cent, the lowest it has been in eight years of data collection.
However, despite a continuous decline in the prevalence of pregnant smokers, the published national ambition to reduce rates of smoking throughout pregnancy to 11 per cent or less by the end of 2015 has not yet been reached, although over one third of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are currently achieving this.
The Statistics on Women's Smoking Status at Time of Delivery is a quarterly report for the period January 2014 to March 2014 which also gives an annual picture that can be compared with data going back to 2006.
The report reveals that in the 12 months to March 2014 in England:
§ There was wide regional variation in women who smoked during pregnancy, with the highest prevalence in the Durham, Darlington and Tees Area Team (20.6 per cent) and the lowest prevalence in the London Area Team (5.1 per cent).
§ At CCG level NHS Blackpool had the highest prevalence where more than one in four mothers smoked during pregnancy (27.5 per cent) and both NHS Central London (Westminster) and NHS Richmond had the lowest prevalence (1.9 per cent).
§ Almost one in twelve CCGs (18 of the 211 CCGs) recorded a prevalence of at least one fifth of women smoking during pregnancy.
§ Of the four Commissioning Regions, London had the highest proportion of CCGs that are meeting the national ambition (97 per cent of 32 CCGs), followed by CCGs in the South of England (52 per cent out of 50 CCGs) and those in the Midlands and East of England (26 per cent of 61 CCGs). The North of England had the lowest proportion of CCGs that are meeting the national ambition (13 per cent of 68 CCGs).
HSCIC Chair Kingsley Manning said: "It is encouraging to see that since 2006-07 the number of pregnant women who smoked during pregnancy has declined. However, there is still a little way to go to achieve the national ambition. Today’s figures highlight there is a still work to be done and it is fundamental that mothers-to-be are aware of the damaging effects smoking can have on their baby."
Consultant Obstetrician Mr Ashok Kumar commented: “I am encouraged by the news that fewer women are choosing to smoke during their pregnancies. This will have a very real impact on the wellbeing of many babies.”
Dr Nick Hopkinson, medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation said:
"It is excellent news that fewer women are smoking while they are pregnant – quitting smoking is one of the most important ways that parents can ensure their children get a good start in life. Babies' developing lungs are damaged by smoking during pregnancy and passive smoke exposure in early life is a major cause of chest problems including asthma and pneumonia.”
The full report can be found at http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/wsstd1314q4