£400 bribe really helps pregnant women quit smoking: Expectant mothers given vouchers are TWICE as likely to quit, study finds
- Experts say financial incentives are “very effective” in helping women quit
- The UK study, led by the University of Glasgow, involved nearly 1,000 women
- Women who smoke during pregnancy put their babies at increased risk of respiratory infections, infant death and low birth rates
Pregnant women who receive shopping vouchers worth up to £400 are twice as likely to quit smoking, a landmark study has found.
Experts say the financial incentives were “highly effective” in helping women quit smoking during pregnancy.
The UK study, led by the University of Glasgow, involved nearly 1,000 women.
Women who smoke during pregnancy put their babies at increased risk of respiratory infections, infant death and low birth rates.
All the women in the study received standard NHS cessation services and half were also offered Love2Shop high street vouchers worth up to £400 if they quit.
Experts say the financial incentives were “highly effective” in helping women quit smoking during pregnancy
The vouchers can be spent at thousands of high street stores.
The women recruited for the study were given vouchers worth £50 to set a stop smoking appointment, a further £50 if they had not smoked for four weeks, a further £100 if they had still quit after three months, and £200 if she continued to quit smoking late in pregnancy.
They were regularly checked through nicotine saliva tests to see if they had quit smoking.
The study found that 26.8 percent of pregnant women in the coupon group quit smoking by the end of their pregnancy, but only 12.3 percent of pregnant women in the other group quit — half the rate of those who received it the vouchers were offered.
Professor David Tappin, lead author of the study from the University of Glasgow said: “Through this study we have shown that offering high street vouchers when offered alongside the current UK Stop Smoking Services is very effective at more is as a doubling of smoking cessation during pregnancy, with a long-term reduction in NHS costs.
“Pregnant smokers tend to have low incomes.
“If you quit smoking you’ll save £70 to £100 a week because you’re not buying cigarettes.
“We hope that our findings will help improve smoking cessation during pregnancy.”
The nationwide study was carried out by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, Queen’s University Belfast and the Universities of Stirling and York.
It took place in seven different locations in the UK – Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Most of the pregnant women who dropped out of both groups relapsed after giving birth, the researchers found.
However, the study is continuing to extend support with financial voucher incentives for 12 months after the baby is born to see if mothers are more likely to remain non-smokers.
It is not yet known if the move will be part of the NHS maternity services.
Professor Linda Bauld, co-principal researcher on the study from the University of Edinburgh, said: “Most of the women who smoke during pregnancy in the UK come from lower income brackets, which will be hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, and have those vouchers helped them both try to quit smoking and remain smoke free during pregnancy.
“This type of intervention is about prevention, about paying upfront to avoid much more serious and costly health problems for the baby and the mother if she continues to smoke.”
Smoking during pregnancy is responsible for significant morbidity and death in women and their children, including 7 percent of childhood hospitalizations for respiratory infections, 20 percent of infant deaths and 30 percent of babies born underweight.
The number of women smoking during pregnancy has declined in countries including the UK in recent years.
In the UK, smoking among pregnant women fell from 16 percent to 9.1 percent between 2007 and 2022. In the US in 2020, five percent of new mothers reported smoking during pregnancy.
The study is published in the British Medical Journal.
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF SMOKING DURING PREGNANCY?
Cigarettes can restrict the baby’s vital supply of oxygen. This makes her heart beat faster every time the mother smokes
Increased risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth
You are less likely to have a healthier pregnancy and baby
Increased risk of stillbirth
The baby is more likely to be born prematurely and face the additional respiratory, feeding, and health challenges that often accompany preterm birth.
Babies are more likely to be born underweight: Babies born to smokers are, on average, about 8 ounces lighter than other babies. This means they are more likely to have trouble keeping warm and are more prone to infection
Increased risk of sudden infant death
Each year, smoking during pregnancy in the UK is estimated to cause:
2,200 preterm births