Smoking in pregnancy hits record low in Greater Manchester – Make Smoking History

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Smoking in pregnancy hits record low in Greater Manchester

New figures reveal the number of women in Greater Manchester smoking during pregnancy has fallen for the sixth consecutive year.

New figures reveal the number of women in Greater Manchester smoking during pregnancy has fallen for the sixth consecutive year. According to NHS Digital, fewer than 8 in 100 women (7.7% of all maternities) in Greater Manchester smoked during pregnancy between April 2023 to March 2024.

This 1.7 percentage point decrease from 9.4% (around 9 in 100 pregnant women) in 2022-23 brings Greater Manchester closer to the England average of 7.4% and the national ambition set by NHS England of 6% or less.

The significant reduction is attributed to Greater Manchester’s Smokefree Pregnancy programme, a key component of Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership’s regional tobacco control strategy to make smoking history.

Launched in 2018, the innovative programme is delivered in collaboration between NHS Greater Manchester, local authorities, and NHS Foundation Trusts. It aims to tackle health inequalities, improve health and wellbeing, and ultimately save babies’ lives. Since its inception, smoking at time of delivery – the benchmark used by the NHS to measure the number of women smoking throughout pregnancy up to childbirth – has dropped by over a quarter, from 12.6% in 2017-18.

During the last six years, the Greater Manchester Smokefree Pregnancy programme has supported more than 6,000 pregnant women and their partners to quit smoking, and its success has been praised by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, leading health charities and maternity experts around the country.

The programme offers all pregnant women and their partners free and personalised stop-smoking support through a specialist maternity stop-smoking service. It includes one-to-one advice and guidance, free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), regular carbon monoxide (CO) screening, and an incentive scheme to stay smokefree. Similar programmes have since been rolled out across the country to support more parents-to-be to stop smoking.

Jane Pilkington, Director of Population Health at NHS Greater Manchester said: “We are thrilled to see such a substantial decrease in smoking at time of delivery. This progress reflects the dedication of our team, healthcare providers, and, most importantly, the women who choose to quit smoking for their health and their babies’ health. We will continue to strive for a future where every pregnancy in Greater Manchester is smokefree.”

Tameside & Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has seen the biggest reduction in smoking in pregnancy in the city-region, with a significant reduction of 4.7 percentage points, from 11.6% in 2022-23 to 6.9% in 2023-24.

Earlier this year, Wendy Whittle, specialist maternity tobacco dependence advisor at NHS Tameside & Glossop was recognised with the Excellence in Reducing Maternal Smoking Award by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). She said: “It’s great to see the rates of women who are smoking while pregnant continuously decreasing. Quitting smoking is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, and for the ongoing health of both mothers and children, but it isn’t always easy. We want pregnant women to know they don’t have to do it on their own and specialist support is there to help you along the way.

“The sooner you stop smoking, the better chances you’ll have of a healthier, happier pregnancy and birth. My advice to women who smoke is please speak to your midwife, there is absolutely no judgement, and we want to reassure people that we are here to help.”

New-mum, Sameera*, knows first-hand the difference support can make. She said: “I wanted to stop smoking so that I could give my baby the healthiest start possible, but it wasn’t easy.

“The support was a huge help. They gave me nicotine replacement products like gum and patches to help me fight my cravings and I had invaluable one-to-one support.

“I felt comfortable talking to my advisor, and she was a shoulder to lean on throughout my pregnancy. She was always there to listen and give me advice without judgement. We would arrange appointments at times that suited me, and I was always able to reach out to her in between appointments if I felt like I needed a bit of extra guidance. It takes a lot of willpower to stop smoking and my advice to other expectant mothers would be to do your best by your baby – that’s all you can do.”

Whilst not completely risk-free, the latest evidence from Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, and the NHS recommends vaping as an effective way to stop smoking as they do not produce tar or carbon monoxide – the two main toxins in cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide is particularly harmful to developing babies.

Smoking in pregnancy and breathing in second-hand smoke (also known as passive smoking) carries serious health risks. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the placenta and baby which can lead to women going into labour early as well as increasing the chance of miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death. Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year.

For free, personalised support to stop smoking, contact your Local Stop Smoking Service  or download the Smoke Free app for six months’ free access to all premium features (T&Cs apply). If you are pregnant or expecting a baby, please speak to your midwife or GP.


*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals