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Smoking tests in draft guidance

Posted: 13 May 2013 by Rob Dabrowski

New draft guidance suggests that pregnant women should be breathalysed to see if they have stopped smoking.

Smoking tests in draft guidance
Nice is behind the idea, which would see midwives regularly checking carbon monoxide levels at antenatal appointments.

The plans are contained within a 23-page document called Draft quality standard for smoking cessation: supporting people to stop smoking.

It states: ‘Some pregnant women find it difficult to say that they smoke because the pressure not to smoke during pregnancy is so intense. This, in turn, makes it difficult to ensure they are offered appropriate support.

‘A carbon monoxide test is an immediate and non-invasive biochemical method for helping to assess whether or not someone smokes.’

Cathy Warwick, RCM chief executive, said: ‘Midwives have a vital role to play in promoting public health, and reducing smoking in pregnancy is extremely important.

‘I visited a maternity unit this week, and heard from fellow midwives just how helpful these tests can be in showing to women the potential damage that smoking can have on their baby.
‘Of course, not all women will want to take this test. Any test which becomes routine must be offered along with comprehensive information and women must be able to opt out.

‘Tests can help midwives educate women in the hope that they reduce their baby’s exposure to cigarette smoke but not all women will accept the test and it is only a partial solution.’

She said that if the NHS had more midwives, a test would not be needed as midwives would have time to visit and get to know women and their families.  
She concluded: ‘We would like them to make clear in any advice to women that midwives should offer the test but that ultimately the final decision must lie with the woman.’

While no NHS treatment is compulsory, some parenting groups and campaigners have criticised the draft and said that pregnant women should not be dictated to.

The new guidance is set to be published in the coming months and the draft PDF can be downloaded here.