Smoking during pregnancy in England 'lowest on record'

Giving up smoking while pregnant Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Women who smoke while pregnant could be damaging their babies' hearts

The number of women smoking during pregnancy across England is down to 12%, the lowest recorded level, figures for 2013-2014 show.

But there were large regional differences, with 5% in London smoking up to nearly 21% in parts of the North East.

Rates have fallen 16% since first measured in 2006-7, the Health and Social Care Information Centre said.

Smoking while pregnant can damage babies' hearts.

It can also increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth.

The government has set a target to reduce the rate to 11% or less women smoking at the time of delivery by 2015.

Still 'way to go'

The report shows 39% of local health areas have met this target so far.

Kingsley Manning, chair at the HSCIC said it was "encouraging" to see the decline in numbers of pregnant women who smoked.

But he added: "There is still a little way to go to achieve the national ambition.

"Today's figures highlight there is a still work to be done and it is fundamental that mothers-to-be are aware of the damaging effects smoking can have on their baby."

NHS Blackpool had the highest rate, with 28% of pregnant women smoking.

Other areas with high smoking in pregnancy rates were South Devon, the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Lincolnshire.

Meanwhile, central London had the lowest rate of 2%.

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