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Pregnant women offered rewards to quit smoking

PUBLISHED: 14:17 19 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:38 06 July 2010

Pregnant women across Suffolk are set to be rewarded with free haircuts and cinema tickets in return for quitting smoking following the success of a six month pilot.

Pregnant women across Suffolk are set to be rewarded with free haircuts and cinema tickets in return for quitting smoking following the success of a six month pilot.

Around 25 women from the Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury areas have benefitted from the incentive scheme run by the NHS Suffolk Stop Smoking Service.

Health chiefs will tomorrow expand the pioneering 'health enhancement reward scheme' (HERS) project across the county, which is thought to be the first in England.

Officials from NHS Suffolk denied that were bribing pregnant woman and the £5,000 a year cost of the initiative was already returning positive results.

Women who attend the project are offered weekly one-to-one stop smoking support and advice along with rewards such as vouchers for haircuts, beauty therapies, swimming sessions, cinema visits, and baby products to encourage them to remain smoke free during their pregnancy.

Hazel Pearce, HERS scheme co-ordinator, said the initiative had been “very well received” by the women who took part in the pilot, which will help more pregnant women over the coming year.

“The long term effects of smoking during pregnancy can mean a baby ends up in a special care baby unit, which can cause trauma to both baby and parents and is a huge expense to the NHS. These rewards cost virtually nothing yet can really encourage women to overcome their addiction to nicotine,” she said.

The scheme has been supported by funding of £3,000 from St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Havebury Housing Partnership.

Tina Lower, 33, from Glemsford, near Bury St Edmunds, received help to quit smoking during her pregnancy with her third child.

“It's easy to see how the stress of having a young baby at home might make you slip back into old habits but I am absolutely determined not to start smoking again. I'm going to take Mollie along to the meetings so I still get that ongoing support,” she said.

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