HUNDREDS of pregnant women in Black Country and West Birmingham were smokers when they gave birth, new figures show.

Maternal smoking rates across England fell from 9.1 per cent in the three months to September 2022-23 to 7.5 per cent in the same period of 2023-24.

However, it meant the national target of six per cent was missed yet again, with Action on Smoking and Health saying the Government is not on track to hit it until around 2032.

NHS Digital figures show there were 313 pregnant women who were known to be smokers at the time of delivery in Black Country and West Birmingham in the three months to September 2023.

This was equivalent to 8.8 per cent of all 3,586 mothers registered at the former NHS Black Country and West Birmingham CCG area – down slightly from 9.3 per cent during the same period in 2022-23.

Out of the 106 sub-integrated care boards in England, 22 met the national target of six per cent or fewer pregnant smokers – more than the year before, when there were only nine.

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive at Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Smoking rates during pregnancy have fallen over the last decade, although nationally we are not on track to hit the Government’s six per cent ambition until around 2032, a decade later than hoped for.

“Maternal smoking increases the risk of poor birth outcomes, including still birth, miscarriage and birth defects, so it's vital that every pregnant woman is offered support to quit smoking.”

There were some regional disparities, with the highest maternal smoking rate (10.1 per cent) in the North East and Yorkshire, while the lowest was in London – 3.8 per cent. The figure stood at 8.7 per cent in the Midlands.

Ms Cheeseman added: “Progress has improved over the last year coinciding with the roll out of new dedicated stop smoking support in maternity services.

“A new national financial incentive scheme for pregnant smokers and their partners due to be rolled out this year should further accelerate progress.

“However, more needs to be done to tackle the significant disparities in maternal smoking rates between different parts of the country and to address high rates of women relapsing to smoking postnatally.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “I am committed to supporting pregnant women to stop smoking and welcome these latest statistics which show a drop in the proportion of women smoking at time of delivery.

“We have committed to offering all pregnant women who smoke financial incentives in the form of vouchers alongside behavioural support by the end of 2024 to help even more expectant mums kick the habit.

“In October this Government set out plans to introduce legislation to prohibit children born on or after 1 January 2009 from legally buying cigarettes in England as part of our smokefree 2030 ambition for England.”