Rollout for scheme to pay mums-to-be to quit cigs

Smoking mum-to-be
Smoking mum-to-be

A controversial scheme which handed out thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash to persuade pregnant women to quit smoking looks set to be rolled out in Ilkeston.

Health chiefs handed out nearly £40,000 to expectant mums across north east Derbyshire to encourage them to kick the habit as part of the experiment.

Officials at Derbyshire County Council are now looking at expanding the project to other areas including Ilkeston – even though they admit only a “small” number of women actually stopped smoking.

The news has sparked anger from a campaign group standing up for taxpayers – but health bosses stress the idea will save lives and money.

Dia Chakravarty, political director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This is a ridiculous scheme which was doomed to fail from the beginning - and it has - costing the taxpayers a huge sum of money.

“There is absolutely no justification for health chiefs to waste yet more of hard-pressed residents’ money by rolling out this failed scheme.

“Raising awareness around the dangers of smoking while pregnant is one thing – simply handing out taxpayers’ hard-earned cash to people is a complete joke.”

The pilot scheme – called A Big Change for the Little One – was launched in 2012 amid concerns about the devastating effects of smoking on unborn babies.

A total of 229 women took part in the experiment, which ended last November.

They had regular hospital appointments with money awarded each time they passed breath tests to prove they hadn’t been smoking. Women who quit during pregnancy and for six months afterwards were able to claim up to £750.

Of the 229 mums-to-be who started on the project, 56 had stopped smoking by the time their babies were born.

Just 26 had still stopped six months after their babies were born.

Councillor Dave Allen, the county council’s cabinet member for health and communities, said: “These figures may look small – but we’re absolutely certain this project will save both lives and money. That’s why we’re looking at extending it to other areas of the county.

“Smoking during pregnancy has a huge impact on the number of stillbirths, deaths as infants and long-term health problems. Unborn children have no choice in this and we have to do all we can to protect them from the harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy. How do you put a price on a child’s life?”

A county council spokesman confirmed £37,490 had been handed out as part of the trial.