The National Health Service is considering offering shopping vouchers worth £400 to pregnant women to encourage them to quit smoking.
This is based on recommendations by both the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England.
The two bodies suggest there is evidence that shows that offering financial incentives to expectant mothers to help them stop smoking is ‘both effective and cost effective’. The experts go on to argue that studies have shown:
Voucher incentives were acceptable to many pregnant women and healthcare providers. Evidence from the UK showed that schemes in which a maximum of around £400 could be gained in vouchers staggered over time (with reductions for each relapse made) were effective and cost effective.
Pregnant women would have to undergo routine biochemical tests to show they have stopped smoking in order to be eligible for the vouchers.
Smoking impacts health of the country
The guidance which is open to consultations would only be applied when women are referred to an NHS Stop Smoking Service or similar organisations run by bodies such as councils, public health teams and charities.
Research cited by the experts show that per every 1,000 pregnant women offered vouchers, 177 would stop smoking.
This they say is a viable and cost effective approach to tackling the impact of smoking on the health of mothers and their babies.
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. 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.
Recommendations on e-cigarettes
The new guidance also said healthcare staff should give clear and up-to-date information on e-cigarettes to people who would want to use them to quit smoking.
They are however to stress that the long-term health effects of these alternatives to cigarettes are still uncertain.
It is a generally-agreed-upon fact that e-cigarettes could help people stop smoking and are similarly effective to other stop-smoking interventions such as nicotine replacement therapy.