Government figures have shown that the percentage of women recorded as smokers at the time of giving birth has fallen below the national target.
Statistics published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that in 2015-16, 10.6% of 631,230 pregnant women in England were recorded as smokers at the time of giving birth.
Not only is this figure lower than in 2014-15, when it was 11.4%, but it is also the lowest annual figure since the first record was published in 2006-07, when the proportion was 15.1%.
This decrease means the national percentage of women recorded as smokers at the time of giving birth was below the national target of 11% for the first time.
However, the statistics found that there were areas in England where up to a quarter of women giving birth over the last 12 months were smokers.
Of England’s 209 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), NHS Blackpool had the highest prevalence, 26% of women recorded as being smokers at the time of delivery.
The CCG with the lowest prevalence was NHS Central London (Westminster) at 1.5%.
Overall, 49.3% of CCGs in England met or surpassed the national 11% target.
According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), areas where deprivation is high have smoking rates many times that of more affluent areas.
In light of this, the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, a group of organisations co-ordinated by ASH, called for the Government to include strong ambitions in the forthcoming Tobacco Control Plan to end the difference in rates between rich and poor areas.
Francine Bates, co-chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said: “Higher smoking rates among poorer pregnant women is a major cause of inequality.
“Investment in services to support women to quit is needed by every local authority.
“If we do not support women to quit when they become pregnant we are locking in a lifetime of inequality.”
Furthermore, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH said: “There has been significant progress in reducing the numbers of women smoking during pregnancy.
“The new Tobacco Control Plan should set an ambitious vision for reducing rates further and clearly identify how this can be achieved.”