Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 16:18 UK

Mothers paid to quit cigarettes

generic pregnant women
Up to 750 women in Rotherham smoke during pregnancy

Pregnant women in South Yorkshire are to be paid to stop smoking.

The 12-month scheme is being piloted in Rotherham and will reward pregnant women with £20 in shopping vouchers if they can kick their cigarette habit.

The women must stop for three weeks and will be rewarded with an extra £20 if they can give up for a month.

Director of public health for the area, John Radford, said: "We need to use every available method to encourage pregnant women to stop smoking."

He added: "Smoking in pregnancy carries major health risks both to mum and baby and here at NHS Rotherham we want to be at the forefront of groundbreaking schemes which help encourage mums to quit."

Similar schemes have been piloted throughout the country but this is the first time an initiative has run in South Yorkshire.

A lot of pregnant women find it extremely difficult to stop smoking during pregnancy
Lisa Fendall, specialist midwife

Women taking part in the scheme will be tested by "stop smoking" midwives using carbon monoxide monitors.

The tests will be carried out during weekly antenatal visits to make sure participants are not smoking.

Julie Schweika, who is pregnant with her first baby, said the scheme had helped her cut down from 15 to 20 cigarettes a day to one.

She added: "It's an incentive to give up, but willpower is still required."

Lisa Fendall, one of the specialist midwives in charge of implementing the scheme, said: "People feel that pregnancy itself should be a good enough reason to give up smoking.

"But a lot of pregnant women find it extremely difficult to stop smoking during pregnancy.

"This will prove very cost effective when you look at the amount of money spent on interventions for a woman who is experiencing problems due to smoking during pregnancy."

The cost of the scheme depends entirely on how many people take part but it is estimated that signing up 200 people will cost £6,000.

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