New report reveals smoking in pregnancy figures

By Julie Griffiths on 03 July 2018 Midwife Training Smoking

The Statistics on smoking, England: 2018 compendium report shows that in 2017-18, 10.8% of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery.

This is similar to the level of 10.7% recorded in 2016-17, but down from 16% in 2006-07.

Just 35 out of 207 CCGs met the government’s national ambition to reduce the smoking in pregnancy rate to less than 6% by 2022.

Published today (3 July) by NHS Digital, the full report reveals that the number of adult smokers in England has dropped by around 1.6 million between 2011 and 2017 to 6.1 million.

The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group (SPCG), of which the RCM is a member, has also published a new report in light of the latest figures and calls for ‘bold’ action from the government to tackle smoking in pregnancy.

The SPCG is concerned that rates appear to be stalling and it has provided a number of recommendations to increase the pace of change including national action to ensure that all areas have evidence-based services and processes in place to identify, refer and support pregnant women who smoke to quit and address the large variation in performance around the country.

It has also suggested to increase support for women from disadvantaged backgrounds where smoking in pregnancy rates are highest, including greater use of incentive schemes, supporting women between pregnancies and providing support to fathers and other household members.

There could be an increase in the use of alternative sources of nicotine to support pregnant women in their quit attempts. And gaps in training for midwives, obstetricians and health visitors should be addressed. 

RCM CEO Gill Walton said: ‘As a profession we are committed to ensuring the women we care for have the safest possible pregnancy. Stopping smoking is part of achieving this. However, the provision in place around the country is not consistent. 

‘Some midwives have access to excellent training, the equipment they need and have high-quality stop smoking services available for the women they support. Investment is needed to ensure that this is universal.’

Commenting on the report, co-chair of the SPCG and chief executive of The Lullaby Trust Francine Bates said: ‘This report should be a wake-up call. On the current trajectory, the government will miss its ambition to reduce rates of smoking among pregnant women with tragic consequences. 

‘We have made real progress in the past in helping women to have smoke-free pregnancies and we must be ambitious about what can be achieved in the future to protect thousands of families from entirely preventable and heartbreaking outcomes.’

Read the SPCG report and access resources for health professionals here.

Read the Statistics on Women's Smoking Status at Time of Delivery, England - Quarter 4, October 2017 to December 2017 here.