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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 01:38 GMT


Pregnant smokers targeted

Millions want to stop smoking

Pregnant women who want to quit smoking are the target of a new government campaign launched on No Smoking Day.

The government is using Wednesday's annual event to launch a national telephone helpline for pregnant smokers.

Women who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have a low birthweight baby.

Targeting pregnant women was one of the key areas of the white paper, Smoking Kills.

Launching the helpline, Health Minister Tessa Jowell said: "Smoking kills 120,000 people in Britain every year. And every year, while it is killing 120,000 people, it is harming thousands of babies in the womb. That can't be right.

"Seven out of 10 adult smokers want to quit. And that includes thousands of pregnant women every year who want to quit, not only for their own health, but for the health of their baby in the womb.

"Smoking during pregnancy harms the unborn baby and leads to lower birthweight. Babies of smoking parents are more likely to suffer illness or even cot death. We must provide pregnant smokers with all the help we can to stop smoking."

Ms Jowell said it was intended that the new service would provide an intensive programme of counselling support, tailored directly to the needs of each individual.

"We want a service which reaches women early in their pregnancy, is accessible, flexible and provides continued support throughout and beyond the pregnancy.

"Experience from home and overseas suggests that providing pregnant women with this type of support can double their chances of quitting successfully."

The new service for pregnant women will be included as part of the arrangements for a replacement smoking helpline to replace the current QUITLINE service when its contract expires at the end of this month.

Ms Jowell said helping pregnant smokers to quit would mean immediate savings for the NHS because it would reduce the health problems associated with smoking.

Millions want to quit

[ image: Pregnant woman will be helped to quit smoking]
Pregnant woman will be helped to quit smoking
Research shows around two thirds of the UK's 12 million smokers want to quit.

Each year more than a million people take part in No Smoking Day, and an estimated 40,000 successsfully kick the habit.

People who use nicotine replacements such as patches, gum or inhalers, double their chances of stopping smoking.

The perils of smoking were illustrated earlier this week by dental technician and former smoker Peter Cooke, who spoke about his battle against oral cancer to publicise No Smoking Day.

Speaking this week at the Royal College of Nursing conference in Harrogate, Mr Cooke said smoking was the equivalent of "putting a hand grenade in your mouth" and urged people to learn from his experience.

Mr Cooke, 39, from Newark, Nottinghamshire, was diagnosed with oral cancer last Christmas and has endured months of gruelling radiotherapy which left him without any saliva in his mouth.

He has completed his treatment but recently found another lump in his throat and is set to have a scan soon to determine whether it is radiotherapy scar tissue or another cancer.

Mr Cooke said: "I smoked for 15 years and never thought about the dangers.

"I worked in the health service for 20 years as a dental technician, making dentures for patients who had oral cancer and not realising that the majority of them had been caused by smoking."

"I always thought I would give up when I was 40 but when I was 38 I was diagnosed with cancer.

"When he (the doctor) told me I had cancer I thought 'I need a fag'.

"I never thought it would happen to me."

Mr Cooke said he had to drink huge amounts of water to compensate for the absence of saliva and is in constant danger of choking on his food as a result of the radiotherapy.


He was launching an RCN campaign to support nurses who want to give up smoking.

They are being given free nicotine replacement therapy and counselling by the organisation.

Twenty-one per cent of student nurses smoke - the same percentage as other people their age - despite their close contact with the effects of smoking.

One student nurse who is giving up is Lisa Goddard from Aberdeen.

She smokes 20 cigarettes a day and says her smoking increases with exam pressure.

Gill Lamb, a ward sister at Hartlepool General Hospital, has smoked for 20 years.

She says smoking helps her cope with the stress of the job.

Of the health problems linked to smoking, she says: "You never think it will happen to you."

Her main reasons for wanting to give up are her children and saving money.

Serial killer

Smoking is the greatest single cause of avoidable illness and premature death in the UK. In 1995, more than 97,000 deaths in England were smoking related.

Around 90% of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking, and smokers are twice as likely to die from heart disease as non-smokers.

On average, smokers lose more than one day of their life each week.

Teenage girls are more likely to smoke regularly than boys. In 1996, 15% of girls aged 11 to 15 smoked compared with 11% of boys.

In 1996, by the age of 15 a total of 28% of boys and 33% of girls were regular smokers. If smoking rates continue, tobacco will kill about one million of today's teenagers and children by the time they reach middle age.

Inhaling other people's smoke can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and certain allergies. About 300 of the 40,000 lung cancer deaths in the UK each year are thought to be due to passive smoking.

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