Pregnant women could be offered £400 shopping vouchers to quit smoking
Pregnant women could be given shopping vouchers worth up to £400 to quit smoking under new guidance for the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England said evidence shows that offering financial incentives to help pregnant women stop smoking is “both effective and cost effective”.
Their guidance, which is open to consultation, said studies have shown “voucher incentives were acceptable to many pregnant women and healthcare providers” and are already in use in some regions.
The experts said women should undergo biochemical tests to prove they have stopped smoking before receiving the vouchers.
However they said that if testing is too difficult due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the vouchers should be given anyway.
Research suggests that for every 1,000 pregnant women offered vouchers, 177 would stop smoking.
The new guidance also said healthcare staff should give clear and up-to-date information on e-cigarettes to people who are interested in using them to stop smoking, but should stress the long-term health effects of them are still uncertain.
It argued that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes have been shown to help people stop smoking and are similarly effective to other stop-smoking interventions such as nicotine replacement therapy.
No nicotine e-cigarettes are currently available on the NHS
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of Nice’s centre for guidelines, said: “These draft guideline recommendations are a renewed effort to reduce the health burden of smoking and to encourage and support people to give up smoking.
“Smoking continues to take a huge toll on the health of the nation and accounts for approximately half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society. It is therefore vitally important that we reduce the level of smoking in this country.
“We know that around 10% of women are known to be smokers at the time of giving birth and, given the significant health effects of smoking on both mothers and babies, it is clear that further efforts are required to encourage this group to give up smoking.
“We need to use every tool in our arsenal to reduce smoking rates, including education, behavioural support, financial incentives, and e-cigarettes if people are interested in using them.
“Combined, we hope that people who smoke will feel enabled to give up tobacco products once and for all.”
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