On the Agenda - Smoking test for pregnant women

In a nutshell Pregnant women should be encouraged to have their carbon monoxide levels tested to determine whether they smoke, new government guidance has suggested. The advice, published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), aims to ensure pregnant smokers receive appropriate support to quit.

Pregnancy advice: smoking
Pregnancy advice: smoking

What are the dangers?

Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, still-birth and sudden unexpected death in infancy. Exposure to smoke in the womb is also associated with psychological problems in childhood.

What does the guidance suggest?

It calls on midwives to assess every woman's carbon monoxide levels at their first antenatal appointment. It also recommends offering a range of options to help them quit.

PR strategy

The in-house NICE press office distributed the story to health contacts on the national papers, broadcasters, healthcare trade media and pregnancy-related sites and publications. The press release included quotes from NICE spokespeople and supportive comments from Tommy's charity, ASH and the British Thoracic Society.

Media coverage

The release generated 50 pieces of coverage including stories in most nationals. The Daily Mail covered the story on the front page and featured the headline: 'Smoking breath tests in pregnancy: Now health watchdog tells midwives to challenge every mother-to-be'.

- 31% of 20- to 24-year-olds smoke

- 12% of over-60s smoke.

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