Almost half of all pregnant women in Yorkshire who pledged to stop smoking lost touch with stop smoking services or continued the habit last year.
According to new data released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, of the 2,542 pregnant women who set a stop smoking date between April 2014 and March this year almost 1,250 failed to quit or lost contact with stop smoking services.
The county’s worst performing region was Barnsley, with almost two thirds of the 390 pregnant women who pledged to quit failing to record success.
Such figures have sparked concern, as smoking during pregnancy can restrict the essential oxygen supply to unborn babies and increases the risk of health problems and stillbirth.
The likes of anti-smoking charity ASH is calling for further investment in stop smoking services nationally after the number of people who set a stop smoking date dropped by 23 per cent to around 450,000 in the last year.
Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at ASH, said: “Local authorities are currently facing really tough spending decisions however investing in services that will help people to quit smoking not only saves lives but reduces demand for services. Without high quality support some people will find it very hard to quit.”
She said ASH has seen “disinvestment” in stop smoking support nationwide, which will have an impact on supporting those who are most vulnerable.
The figures come months after local authorities nationwide were told they collectively had to deal with a £200million in-year cut to the public health budget.
Corinne Harvey, from Public Health England in Yorkshire, said tackling smoking in pregnant women is a “priority” for itself, councils and the NHS.
She said: “Quitting smoking is one of the best things a woman and her partner can do to protect their baby’s health through pregnancy and beyond.
“The numbers of women smoking in pregnancy are at the lowest levels ever but further action is needed to support those who find it more difficult to stop.
“There are still significant differences across places and social groups – with the burden and harm hitting hardest in more deprived communities.”
Barnsley Council, which funds stop smoking services in the town alongside NHS organisations, has said it is “committed” to the “key priority” of reducing the number of pregnant smokers and currently employs a specialist stop smoking midwife.
In Leeds, in which more than half of pregnant smokers who set a quit date failed to give up or lost touch with the service, the council’s director of public health Dr Ian Cameron said “real progress” has been made regionally but more needs to be done.
Despite this, of the 165 Doncaster women who set a stop smoking date just eight failed to kick the habit while only one person lost touch with the service.
Smoking in pregnancy is the largest single preventable cause of disease and death to unborn babies and infants.
Meanwhile, Public Health England published a review yesterday which suggested e-cigarettes could soon be prescribed on the NHS. Health officials said much of the public wrongly believes they carry health risks in the same way cigarettes do, but this is not the case. Around 80,000 deaths a year in England are caused by smoking tobacco.