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May 12th, 2010:

Mothers offered £650 to stub out tobacco

britney_pregnant_smokingLast updated: May 12, 2010

Source: Times Online

Proposals to ‘bribe’ pregnant women to quit smoking are branded waste of money

Pregnant smokers will get food vouchers worth up to £650 if they agree to give up cigarettes, under a scheme proposed by the Scottish government.

Women who quit will receive grocery vouchers worth £12.50-a-week during their pregnancy and for three months after their child is born.

To qualify, they will have to prove they have given up smoking by taking a weekly breath test at a local chemist, which records carbon monoxide levels.

Ministers believe the initiative could help thousands of women quit every year, saving the lives of children and protecting them against ill health.
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However, critics claim the scheme is a waste of taxpayers’ money when public finances are already overstretched. They say pregnant mothers should give up for the sake of their unborn children rather than for financial gain — and quitting tobacco would save a 20-a-day smoker about £35 a week anyway.

The initiative is based on a pilot scheme in Tayside, which the NHS claims was a success. Half of smokers gave up after a month of enrolling, but the figure fell to 31% after three months and 21% after a year.

The Give it up for Baby (GIUFB) scheme, which was launched in 2007, has been taken up by 400 women and cost £43,496 to run last year.

The Scottish government is also looking at the national rollout of another pilot scheme in Tayside, quit4u, which offers all smokers £12.50 a week in shopping vouchers to quit.

Mark Wallace, the campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, described the vouchers as “an extremely dubious use of taxpayers’ money”, saying: “At best, the government will be bribing people to do something they should do for the sake of their baby anyway, while at worst some people might smoke a few cigarettes in order to qualify for the scheme.”

However, Sheila Duffy, chief executive of the anti-tobacco charity ASH Scotland, said the scheme had been shown to work. “The GIUFB model provides women with community-based stop-smoking support, as well as a financial incentive to remain a non-smoker,” she said. “I am strongly supportive of rolling this model out across Scotland.”

Alex Salmond, the first minister, said ministers were “actively considering how to roll the GIUFB pilot out throughout the country”.

Shona Robison, the public health minister, added: “We’re working with NHS boards to encourage pregnant smokers — or smokers planning a pregnancy — to quit. It is important to see how good local initiatives such as NHS Tayside’s Give it up for Baby can be scaled up and delivered more systematically. The initial results do seem to suggest that this incentive approach significantly increases the chances of pregnant women successfully quitting smoking.”

Some research suggests income has little to do with a determination to quit. According to a study, 4.8% of women from the least deprived parts of Scotland stopped smoking when pregnant, compared with 4.5% in the most deprived.

Despite a series of public campaigns, only 3% of smokers give up when pregnant. Mothers-to-be who smoke run a higher risk of miscarriage, and their children are more at risk of cot death and health and developmental problems.