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UK pregnant women offered gift vouchers, beauty treatments to quit smoking

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The NHS plans to offer treats to pregnant women who smoke so as to encourage them to quit. Pregnant women who smoke are to be offered gift vouchers and beauty treatments to encourage them to quit. The incentives, which also include baby goods, will go to those women who can prove they have kicked the habit.

Telford and Wrekin NHS Trust in Shropshire plans to begin a pilot scheme soon, having already agreed to the idea in principle. But it has been warned that the move could be seen as the Health Service rewarding bad behaviour.

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Expectant mothers who agree to the trials will have various examinations, such as carbon monoxide monitoring, to show if they have recently smoked. Samples may also be taken to prove their bodies are free of nicotine and other harmful substances found in cigarettes.

Dr Kevin Lewis, director of Shropshire's Help 2 Quit service, said the plan could help improve live birth rates, result in better health for newborn babies and cut NHS treatment costs. He added: 'We are dealing with an addiction and we are dealing with human behaviour and we know from studies that people are often not as motivated by the benefits to future health as they are by the here and now.'

Last year, 466 women - equal to 23 per cent of maternities in Telford and Wrekin - were still smoking up to delivery.

The author of this story is Dr. John Ray, who blogs at Socialized Medicine.