Pregnant smokers to get FREE vapes under council-backed scheme – but experts accuse officials of ‘playing with fire’
- Lambeth Council will offer e-cigarettes as part of its ‘stop smoking’ service
- It hopes it will help them save £2k a year that would usually be spent on smoking
- Little research has been conducted into the safety of e-cigarettes in pregnancy
- And it is not known whether the vapour is harmful to a baby, the NHS says
Pregnant women are to be given free vapes by a London council to stop them from smoking.
Lambeth Council will offer e-cigarettes as part of its ‘stop smoking’ service in a bid to help parents save £2,000 a year that would usually be spent on smoking.
Little research has been conducted into the safety of e-cigarettes and e-liquids in pregnancy and it is not known whether the vapour is harmful to a baby, the NHS website says.
Lambeth councillor Ben Kind revealed details of the scheme in response to a question about what the authority was doing to tackle child and family poverty in the borough.
Experts say the financial incentives were ‘highly effective’ in helping women stop smoking during pregnancy
According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Kind, cabinet member for children and young people, wrote: ‘The council is soon to start providing free vape products, as part of the stop smoking service, to smokers who are pregnant and/or are carers of young children.
‘This is aimed at improving the health of the family and saving money in the process of approximately £2,000 per year per family.
‘It is estimated over 3,000 households in Lambeth fall under the poverty line due to smoking and many of these households include children.’
Last month a landmark government-commissioned review, researched by King’s College London, confirmed that vapes are not risk-free.
However it emphasised that the report was ‘good news’ for people who smoke, with vaping found to be ‘substantially less harmful’ than smoking.
On vaping outcomes in pregnancy, it said the evidence ‘remains insufficient’.
‘Effects of vaping on foetal development and pregnancy outcomes remain in particular need of research, including the effects of switching from smoking to vaping in the perinatal phase,’ it added.
The NHS website recommends pregnant women use licensed NRT products such as patches and gum to help you stop smoking.
However, it adds: ‘But if you find using an e-cigarette helpful for quitting and staying smoke-free, it’s much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.’
Research from Queen Mary University of London suggested earlier this year that e-cigarettes are just as safe as nicotine patches for pregnant women and may help more women stop smoking.
A Lambeth Council spokesman, who highlighted such research, said: ‘Smoking during pregnancy is the leading risk factor for poor birth outcomes, including stillbirth, miscarriage and pre-term birth.
‘We recognise that while it is best for pregnant smokers to stop smoking without continuing to use nicotine, if this is difficult, and if they choose to use e-cigarettes it can help them become smoke-free.’
But Professor Andrew Bush, from Imperial College London’s National Heart & Lung Institute, said the council was ‘playing with fire’.
‘E-cigarettes have not been around for a long time,’ he said.
‘We’re still learning about these things. I would be really, really worried about this as being yet one more step saying: ‘Okay, e-cigarettes are okay.’
‘I’m sure the council is doing it with the best of motives — they’re not in the pockets of the e-cigarette manufacturers.
‘But, what are you encouraging women to inhale? What’s the safety of these things?’
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF SMOKING WHILE PREGNANT?
Cigarettes can restrict the essential oxygen supply to the baby. As a result, their heart has to beat harder every time the mother smokes
Increased risk of complications in pregnancy and birth
Less likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby
Increased risk of stillbirth
Baby more likely to be born too early and have to face the additional breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature.
Baby more likely to be born underweight: babies of women who smoke are, on average about 8oz lighter than other babies. This means they’re more likely to struggle keeping warm and are more prone to infection
Increased risk of cot death
Each year, smoking during pregnancy in the UK causes an estimated:
2,200 premature births