Derbyshire Times readers have reacted angrily at controversial plans to roll out a ‘failed’ scheme which hands out taxpayers’ cash to pregnant women who quit smoking.
As we exclusively revealed last week, health chiefs handed out nearly £40,000 to expectant mums across north east Derbyshire to encourage them to kick the habit as part of the experiment.
Officials at Derbyshire County Council are now looking at expanding the project to other areas – even though only a small number of women actually stopped smoking.
Health bosses at the cash-strapped Labour-led authority stress the idea will save lives and money.
But on our Facebook page, Clare Hall said: “I’m furious. Having a baby should be an incentive to stop smoking.”
Emily Barrie said: “If I was a smoker while pregnant, I would stop the moment I found out, no matter how bad it made me feel and no matter how tempted I was – I would not put my child’s health at risk for my own selfish addiction.”
Robert Warwick said: “A waste of money!”
On Twitter, Claire Crookes said: “Surely a pregnant woman should want to quit smoking for the wellbeing of her child – not because we’re paying them?”
Adam Ward said: “They don’t need money – they need a reality check!”
On www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk, user DerbyshireLad said: “They’re increasing my council tax yet awarding my hard-earned dosh to pregnant mums for something they shouldn’t be doing. Disgusting. Don’t roll it out!”
againstthegrain said: “So if you behave yourself and don’t smoke, you get nothing. But if you smoke, you get a hand out? Where’s the sense in that?”
The pilot scheme was launched in 2012 amid concerns about the devastating effects of smoking on unborn babies.
A total of 229 women took part in the experiment, which ended last November.
They had regular hospital appointments with money awarded each time they passed breath tests to prove they hadn’t been smoking. Women who quit during pregnancy and for six months afterwards were able to claim up to £750.
Of the 229 mums-to-be who started on the project, 56 had stopped smoking by the time their babies were born.
Just 26 had still stopped six months after their babies were born.
Dia Chakravarty, political director of campaign group the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “There is absolutely no justification for health chiefs to waste yet more of hard-pressed residents’ money by rolling out this failed scheme.”
Councillor Dave Allen, the county council’s cabinet member for health and communities, said: “We always knew this was going to be a controversial project but it is one which we strongly support because it saves lives and money.
“Every pregnant woman who smokes costs the NHS an extra £6,000 over somebody who doesn’t. As part of this scheme, the maximum a mother could be paid for staying smoke free from her first midwife appointment until six months after giving birth is £752. It’s a huge saving for the taxpayer.
“More importantly, the health benefits for the unborn child are overwhelming. Smoking during pregnancy has a huge impact on the number of stillbirths, deaths as infants and long-term health problems.
“An unborn child has no choice in this and we have to do all we can to protect them.
“As a result of our pilot financial incentive scheme, eight times more mums-to-be gave up smoking. We are still assessing its full impact and cabinet will consider a full report before deciding where it can be rolled out further.”