Scientists have claimed that if pregnant mothers were to be paid to quit smoking via the reward of shopping vouchers then they are as much as two-and-a-half times more likely to give up.
Research conducted, which included 600 women, discovered that those who were paid £400 in vouchers did in fact give up quicker in comparison to those who had not been paid.
The scientists at the root of the study cited that paying pregnant women to quit could be a measure capable of saving the National Health Service millions in the long-term.
It is thought that smoking tobacco cigarettes is the source of around 5,000 miscarriages in the UK, along with more than 100 still births and in excess of 100 infant deaths.
Specialists have forecast that the cost to the NHS through treating the after-effects of smoking in pregnancy alone, in both mothers and their babies, equates to a staggering £87.5m.
The team of researchers behind the study worked out that paying mothers to kick the habit had a cost-effectiveness of £482 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) – a complex formula NICE uses to work out value for money – which is well within the endorsed thresholds.
Professor David Tappin, of Glasgow University, and prof Linda Bauld, of Stirling University, said: “Smoking during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of morbidity and death among women and their babies costing between £20 million and £87 million per annum in the United Kingdom and more than $367 million (£241 million) in the United States.
“Smoking in pregnancy accounts for up to 30 per cent of low birth weight babies and up to 14 per cent of pre-term deliveries per annum, and is associated with increased risks for ectopic pregnancy, premature rupture of membranes, stillbirth, low birth weight and congenital anomalies such as cleft lip.
“Despite these risks, 10-20 per cent of pregnant women in Europe continue to smoke during pregnancy. In Scotland 18 per cent of pregnant women smoke and only 20 per cent of them manage to quit during their pregnancy.”
The researchers said: “Identifying pregnant women who smoke, engaging with them and supporting them to quit smoking during pregnancy is a key international tobacco policy priority and this study provides evidence on the cost-effectiveness of financial incentives as a means to achieving cessation during pregnancy.
“Existing interventions for pregnant smokers are not highly effective; however, this study provides substantial evidence on the cost-effectiveness of a financial incentives intervention to add to existing cessation support.”
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