EXCLUSIVE: Nearly £90k of YOUR cash given to pregnant mums to stop smoking

Babies born to mums who smoke are twice as likely to die from sudden unexplained death in infancy and more likely to have respiratory problems later in childhood.
Babies born to mums who smoke are twice as likely to die from sudden unexplained death in infancy and more likely to have respiratory problems later in childhood.

A controversial scheme which handed out almost £90,000 of taxpayers’ cash to persuade pregnant mums to quit smoking has been axed.

The initiative - which was launched five years ago amid concerns about the devastating effects of smoking on unborn babies - provided shopping vouchers to expectant mothers who kicked the habit.

They could receive a total of £752 in vouchers if they stopped smoking during pregnancy and for six months afterwards.

Derbyshire County Council today confirmed to us that £88,490 was given out as part of the contentious scheme since 2012.

The Conservative-led authority has now agreed to axe the initiative and instead reallocate funds to Live Life Better Derbyshire, a service which offers help and support to residents to stop smoking and improve their diet.

A county council spokesman said: "Despite the scheme having some success, it didn't attract enough women to make a real difference to the numbers of pregnant women who smoke.

"We now feel that the money could be better spent in other ways to help pregnant women quit smoking.

"We continue to provide support to pregnant smokers - this is provided by trained stop smoking advisers and includes behavioural support and access to stop smoking medicines such as nicotine patches or gum.

"We are committed to reducing the numbers of women who smoke while pregnant. Babies born to mums who smoke are twice as likely to die from sudden unexplained death in infancy and more likely to have respiratory problems later in childhood."

The Taxpayers' Alliance pressure group slammed the initiative, branding it 'ridiculous'.

Its political director, Dia Chakravarty, said: "It was doomed to fail from the beginning - and it has -- costing taxpayers a huge sum of money.

"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."

In Derbyshire, 14.2 per cent of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery - significantly worse than the national average of 10.6 per cent.

For more information about quitting smoking, call Live Life Better Derbyshire on 0800 0852299 or visit www.livelifebetterderbyshire.org.uk