BLACKPOOL still has the highest rates of women who smoke when they are pregnant.
Shocking new figures from the NHS Information Centre reveal almost a third of mums-to-be in the resort are still lighting up right up to giving birth.
This is despite a higher risk of serious health problems to the unborn child - including low birth weight, pre-term birth, placental complications and stillbirth.
The figures showed a clear north/south divide in the proportion of mums who classed themselves as smokers at the time they deliver their babies.
The lowest rates were in Westminster and the London borough of Brent, with just 2.8 per cent.
The NHS Information Centre said: “Babies from deprived backgrounds are more likely to be born to mothers who smoke and to have much greater to second-hand smoke in childhood.”
Jane Roberts, (below) head of tobacco control for NHS Blackpool, said the matter was a “key public health issue” and factors such as low income, poor educational achievement and teen pregnant – as well as a high overall smoking rate in the general population all contributed to the town’s high figures.
She said: “Smoking during pregnancy contributes to 40 per cent of all infant deaths. Many of these deaths could be avoided.
“Over the past three years there has been considerable investment by NHS Blackpool in investigating in all aspects of the issue so we now have a two-year action plan covering six different areas for improvement. It ranges from developing the knowledge and skills of midwives to ensuring all pregnant women who smoke are identified at booking and given appropriate treatment.
“We have excellent stop smoking services which can help women and their partners quit.”
NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “Smoking can cause a range of serious health problems, including lower birthweight, pre-term birth, placental complications and perinatal mortality.
“These statistics highlight stark regional variation in the proportion of women smoking at the time of giving birth.”