THE number of pregnant women in York who were still smoking when their baby was born rose at the end of last year, according to government figures.

A report to the City of York Council Health, Housing and Adult Social Care Policy and Scrutiny Committee says the percentage of pregnant women smoking in the Vale of York CCG area rose from 7.5 per cent in the third quarter of last year to 11.9 per cent at the end of the year.

But a spokeswoman for the council insisted there has been a reduction in pregnant women smoking since 2010.

A national charity said it is “concerning” that smoking among pregnant women has not declined in York during the past 12 months.

The organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) warned that some of the most vulnerable smokers are being “left without support” due to underfunding for stop smoking services.

Vicky Salt, policy manager at health charity ASH, said: “Smoking during pregnancy is a leading cause of poor birth outcomes so it’s concerning that rates of smoking among pregnant women have not declined in York over the past year.

“We know that pregnant smokers often need extra support to quit but with squeezed budgets this extra help is not always available. The declining use of stop smoking services shows the impact of severe under-funding and combined with local directives instructing GPs to restrict prescribing of medications to help smokers quit, some of the most vulnerable smokers, like pregnant women, are being left without support.

“We want to see the NHS and council-run stop smoking services working together to provide comprehensive support for all smokers to quit.”

Figures released to The Press following a Freedom of Information request show the number of pregnant women receiving help to quit smoking dropped dramatically from 66 in 2015 to just 17 last year.

Responsibility for smoking cessation services was handed over from the NHS to local councils in 2013. In York, this meant that many people who would have got nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) like patches or gum for free or on prescription then had to buy their own. Only pregnant women or people with long term health conditions can get any help to quit under the new public health service, and only pregnant women can get 12 weeks of free NRT.

Fiona Phillips, assistant director of Public Health in York, said the percentage of pregnant women smoking has fallen by 2.8 per cent since 2010, from 13.9 per cent to 11.1 per cent. She said: “Smoking remains an important public health issue, and we’re pleased that the longer-term trend shows a reduction in the percentage of pregnant women smoking.

“Every expecting parent receives advice about and the offer of support to stop smoking, including funding medication to help them stop.

“We work closely with health teams across the city to ensure that anyone requiring support to stop smoking can access advice and support through our YorWellbeing service.”

However, government data shows the figures have fluctuated, climbing to 12.1 per cent of pregnant women smoking in 2016 before falling slightly last year.

For help to quit smoking call 01904 553377 or visit