Pregnant smokers 'unaware of health risks'

A pregnant woman smoking The BMA said loved ones could help by quitting at the same time

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Doctors have warned that Scottish pregnant smokers do not know enough about the health risks for themselves and their babies.

Currently, 19% of pregnant women are smokers, compared to 29% in 1995.

The BMA Scotland said the fact one in five mothers-to-be still smoked showed the Scottish government had a lot to do to educate people on the effects.

On the UN's World No Tobacco Day, the organisation called for more support for adults to quit the habit.

Smoking in pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of premature birth and cot death.

It also increases by one-third the risk of stillbirth or death within the first week of a baby's life.

Children born to parents who smoke are also twice as likely to suffer from serious respiratory infections.

Start Quote

We are seeing an increase in smoking-related diseases like lung cancer among women”

End Quote Sheila Duffy Ash Scotland

Dr Sally Winning, deputy chairman of BMAS, said: "Around one in five women smoke during pregnancy and, although this is an improvement on previous years, it reflects the lack of knowledge among Scots about the health risks of smoking, not only to themselves, but to the health of their children."

She said partners and families could help pregnant smokers by quitting at the same time.

Dr Winning said it was "essential" that the Scottish government tackles the issue of parental smoking.

She added: "Parents should be educated about the effects of smoking, not just on their own health, but to their children.

"We need to offer more smoking cessation support to adults and parents to help those who wish to stop smoking stay stopped."

'Plain packaging'

Ash Scotland, the anti-smoking charity, said tobacco companies should be prevented from aggressively marketing their products to women.

The charity's chief executive Sheila Duffy said: "Smoking is still the biggest killer of Scots, with a quarter of all deaths due to tobacco, and we are seeing an increase in smoking-related diseases like lung cancer among women as a result of a rise in women smokers in Scotland 30 to 40 years ago.

"Although teenage smoking is on a downward trend, there are still more girls than boys taking up smoking younger."

A ban on displays in shops and sales from vending machines comes into force across Scotland next year.

Ms Duffy welcomed the ban, but called for further measures "such as plain packaging and holding tobacco companies more accountable".

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