Pregnant women are being rewarded with up to £260 shopping vouchers if they successfully quit smoking in a pilot scheme.
Mums-to-be in Stoke-on-Trent are trialling the initiative that challenges them to stay off cigarettes during their pregnancy and 12 weeks after birth.
Stoke-on-Trent city council will assess the trial’s success in spring 2017 to decide whether or not it will continue.
The Love2Shop vouchers – which can be redeemed in stores including Argos, Debenhams, New Look and TK Maxx – are paid in installments to mark every two weeks the person goes smoke-free.
“Studies on Voucher Based Reinforcement Therapy (VBRT) provide compelling evidence that positive reinforcement with retail vouchers creates positive changes in behaviour, and we are keen to see if this approach can improve infant health in Stoke-on-Trent,” said councillor Ann James, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet member for health and social care.
The scheme – Healthier Futures Supporting a Smokefree Pregnancy – is funded by central government via Public Health England (PHE).
James continued: “Reducing smoking during pregnancy is a key priority for the authority, with an estimated 40% of infant deaths being attributable to smoking nationwide.
“The Healthier Futures Supporting a Smokefree Pregnancy scheme is a pilot project designed to encourage pregnant women to set a quit date and sustain it for at least 12 weeks after they give birth.”
The women undergo carbon monoxide monitoring to prove they have not smoked. If they complete the whole course, their partner or a friend will also receive £40-worth of Love2Shop vouchers for supporting them.
The council said the initiative is part of measures to try to cut the number of infant deaths attributed to smoking in Stoke-on-Trent and reduce costly complicated deliveries at hospital, Stoke Sentinel reported.
This isn’t the first time pregnant women have been given vouchers as an incentive to quit smoking.
In January 2015, a study of 612 pregnant women in Glasgow found that offering shopping vouchers worth a total of £400 to pregnant smokers made them more likely to quit the habit.
The study found significantly more women in the voucher group (22.5%) stopped smoking by late pregnancy (34 to 38 weeks) compared with the control group (8.6%).
Although the NHS stated that further studies in other parts of the UK are needed to see if a national programme would be cost effective, they said the study was “well conducted” and “demonstrates such schemes may be successful.”
The NHS concluded: “Further study may benefit from exploring the reasons why some women may not engage with specialist pregnancy smoking services, and ways to reach greater numbers of women.”