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October 28, 2010 - Pregnant women in the north of England are almost nine times more likely to smoke than those in the south, research showed today. Illustrating the link between smoking-related diseases and England's poorest communities, a survey by the Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) found 33% of women in Blackpool, Lancashire, smoked while they were pregnant in 2008/09, compared with 4% in Richmond, Surrey.
Overall, nearly 15% or women who gave birth across England in the same period said they smoked during pregnancy.
While overall deaths from smoking-related diseases across England had fallen, "the significant proportion of women who reported smoking in pregnancy is a sign of our need to redouble our preventative efforts in primary and maternity care," London Health Observatory director Dr Bobbie Jacobson said. She called on local authorities and partnerships between the NHS and general practitioners to address the problem.
The APHO survey found there were 207 smoking related deaths per 100,000 people aged 35 and over in England during 2006-08. This was down from 216 deaths per 100,000 in 2004-06.
Smoking related deaths from lung cancer were highest in Middlesbrough, with the illness claiming 71 victims per 100,000 in 2006-08. This compared to 19 per 100,000 smokers dying from lung cancer in Guildford in the same period.
"There is clearly a mix of good and bad news," Dr Jacobson said. "The overall picture of falling death rates is encouraging and shows what can be achieved over time through clear plans to tackle the harm from smoking." But, she added "the north/south inequalities remain a stark reminder that the biggest burden of smoking-related ill health still falls on our poorest communities."
The survey was commissioned by the Department of Health, on behalf of APHO.
Reference: Northern women 'more likely to smoke while pregnant', London Evening Standard, 10/27/2010.
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