Doing things differently in Greater Manchester to reduce smoking in pregnancy

By Jane Coyne, Smokefree Pregnancy Programme Manager at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership Midwives Women Wellbeing Of Women Smoking

On No Smoking Day, Jane Coyne, Smokefree Pregnancy Programme Manager at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, reflects on how innovative stop smoking initiatives are to reducing smoking rates and helping to tackle health inequalities in Greater Manchester.

With my background in midwifery, giving every baby the best start in life means everything to me, and that’s why I’m so passionate about treating tobacco dependency in expectant parents with specialist maternity support. Rather than referring out to stop smoking services, help to quit can be arranged for pregnant women and their partners from their first midwife appointment.

Our innovative approach has generated hugely positive results for families in Greater Manchester. Since launching the programme in 2018, we’ve seen the rate of smoking at the time of delivery (SATOD) fall from one in eight new mothers to one in 10.

Despite this, smoking is still the biggest risk factor for deaths in children under one. The Royal College of Physicians reported that maternal smoking causes up to 5,000 miscarriages, 300 perinatal deaths and 2,200 premature births in the UK each year. Maternal smoking also causes around 19,000 babies to be born with low birth weight, and is associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Sadly, these adverse effects are avoidable and disproportionately affect younger women and those who are most disadvantaged. We can’t forget that smoking is also the single largest driver of health inequalities – people from more deprived social groups often start smoking at an earlier age, and long-term smokers, who suffer the most from smoking-related illnesses, are more likely to come from lower socio-economic groups.

That’s why the work we are doing in Greater Manchester is so important. We work with every individual to understand their circumstances, without blame or judgement. Quitting smoking is tough – it’s a chronic, relapsing addiction, not a lifestyle choice – and every parent-to-be wants the best for their baby.

The positive results we’ve seen in Greater Manchester show that, with the right support, expectant parents are giving up smoking for good. By doing things differently and using innovative measures, we can improve the health and life chances for families across the country and make smoking history for future generations.