ALMOST one in five women are still smoking during pregnancy according to new figures.

Early indications show the numbers for Blackburn with Darwen are dropping from 18.5 per cent, but only to 17.5 per cent in 2012/13.

The number of pregnant smokers remains the same in Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Ribble Valley, Hyndburn and Chorley at 18.5 per cent. The average for England was 13.4 per cent.

The statistics are seen as extremely concerning by health officials, but are not considered surprising.

Public health consultant Dr Gifford Kerr said: “People living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to smoke as those living in the wealthiest areas.

“While it is no surprise, therefore, that we have a high number of smokers and high incidence of smoking-related deaths in Blackburn with Darwen, it is something we are extremely concerned about.”

According to experts, stopping smoking will have an immediate beneficial effect for expectant mums, clearing carbon monoxide and chemicals from the body and returning oxygen levels to normal.

It will also mean:

  • less morning sickness and fewer complications in pregnancy
  • more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby
  • reduce the risk of stillbirth
  • help women cope better with the birth or complications
  • mean the baby is less likely to be born too early and face additional breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature
  • reduce the risk of cot death.

Other figures collated by the London Health Observatory show mortality rates of smokers in Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley are some of the highest in the UK.

Of 327 areas across the UK studied for how many people died from smoking in 2008-10, the towns came seventh and eighth respectively.

The organisation looked at how many people aged 35 and above had died as a result of their habit, per 100,000 residents.

Blackburn with Darwen saw 320 tobacco-related deaths, seeing an increase of 11 since 2007-09, making the borough sixth highest in the North West.

Dr Kerr said: “A large number of smoking-related deaths are due to lung cancer and we know cases are increasing, especially in women.

“We have poor one-year survival rates because people don’t come forward early enough with symptoms, so another important area of our work has been to help raise awareness of warning signs. We offer a carbon monoxide test to pregnant women to detect evidence of smoking, and we have appointed a dedicated smoking in pregnancy midwife to offer advice and support.

“We are now exceeding our targets for the numbers of people who have successfully quit and we continue to work hard to address this issue through our stop smoking services.

“Reducing smoking in pregnancy rates is a key target for us and we are determined to continue this downward trend.”