Researchers at the University of Bath are using new government funding to look at ways to help pregnant women quit smoking.
The funding is part of a £1.2 million grant given to the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS) by the Department of Health to develop and evaluate a tobacco control health inequalities pilot programme. It will consist of six projects and aims to increase smoking cessation rates amongst some of the most vulnerable groups of smokers in England.
Smoking contributes to nearly half of the gap in life expectancy between the most and least affluent groups in the UK. Prevalence is particularly high in some groups experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage including adults with mental health problems, some ethnic minority groups and parents with young children in deprived communities.
The pilots will aim to increase referral rates from community and health organisations to NHS Stop Smoking services and improve the treatment offered by these services.
The six projects focus on parents with young children attending Children’s Centres, mental health service users, prisoners, ethnic minority groups that use smokeless tobacco products and women who smoke during pregnancy. A final pilot will examine effective ways of preventing relapse in smokers who have quit.
The tobacco control research group at the University of Bath, a cross-faculty group that forms part of UKCTCS, will lead the smoking during pregnancy pilot and contribute to the children’s centre pilot.
Professor Linda Bauld, who will lead Bath’s contribution to the programme, said: “Smoking during pregnancy is the biggest avoidable cause of fetal harm in the UK and at least 255,000 women continue to smoking during pregnancy in England each year.
“Pregnancy motivates many women to try stopping smoking but very few use NHS stop smoking services which are the most effective way to quit. This pilot will aim to increase uptake as well as testing the best methods for identifying smoking during pregnancy at maternity booking.”
The Centre involves leading tobacco control researchers from a range of disciplines and part of a wider £20 million investment into public health research, funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.
Each of the institutions involved work collaboratively to deliver original research, policy development, advocacy, teaching and training, drawing on the expertise of leading tobacco control researchers.