Blackpool has the highest rate of pregnant women smoking at the time of delivery in the country, new figues revealed today.
The national average of expectant mothers lighting up is 11 per cent, but in Blackpool more than 30 per cent are smoking.
New figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show of the 433 births between January and March this year, 133 mothers were active smokers – 30.7 per cent.
Between April and June it had decreased to 27.4 per cent as 118 of the 431 births involved smoking mums.
And health chiefs at Blackpool Victoria Hospital today said the figures were on a downward trend.
Pauline Tschobotko, Head of Service at the Family Division at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We work very closely with our Public Health team to offer the very best advice and assistance to expectant mothers to help them to stop smoking.
“Each year we are seeing the percentage of mothers who are smoking at time of delivery gradually decreasing.
“At the beginning of the pregnancy and then again at 36 weeks we provide a carbon monoxide screening service to expectant mothers to enable us to show them the effects that smoking or being in an environment where smoking is taking place has on them and their child.
“Blackpool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been smokefree since 2007 and we have an on-going training programme for all staff, including midwives, to work with patients, expectant mothers and their families to support them to quit.
“We also work very closely with the community Stop Smoking Service and refer expectant and new mothers and families to the service for support after they have left hospital.”
Lowering the numbers of mothers smoking at the time of delivery is about much more than just offering a quit smoking pack, said Coun Sarah Riding, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for health.
She said: “This has to be seen as part of the wider health problems we have in Blackpool. This is about health and wellbeing generally.
“You do get smoking in areas where there’s poverty, problems with employment and high levels of stress - often people do smoke as a stress response.”
But Coun Riding stressed that with information and advice given to expectant mothers who smoke, blame should not be attached, and that support should be offered not only to stop smoking but help problems that can lead people to smoke.
She said: “People know that if you can’t stop smoking when you’re pregnant it suggests there’s a big problem. It’s about trying to understand why someone smokes.
“People know they shouldn’t be smoking so we’ve got to look at the reasons around why they are and how we can help that.
“It’s not just a case of someone quitting, if you’re in a stressful environment then you might reach for cigarettes.”
And educating children and teenagers, the “next generation of parents”, is also key in lowering and maintaining low numbers.
She added: “A lot of young people smoke, although they’ve got the knowledge and the information, and we do have a lot of young pregnancies.
“Early contact and health advice is obviously happening and that’s obviously why those numbers have gone down.
“Now it’s about building up the work that’s done already.”