NEARLY a quarter of babies born in Sunderland are to mums who smoke, shocking new figures have revealed.
About two babies are born every day across the city to women who have failed to kick their habit.
Today is World No Tobacco Day but latest statistics show that during the last three years, 2,035 mums-to-be on Wearside continued to smoke through pregnancy, potentially risking their unborn baby’s life.
The percentage of pregnant mums who smoke dropped slightly from 24.1 per cent in 2007/08 to 22.2 per cent, but remains much higher than the national average of 14 per cent.
Across County Durham, a total of 3,681 pregnant women smoked when they gave birth during the last three years.
In 2009/2010, 22.2 per cent of all pregnant mums smoked.
The large rate of pregnant smokers has sparked concern with health bosses.
Nonnie Crawford, director of public health for Sunderland, said: “The proportion of Sunderland mums smoking during pregnancy has steadily reduced over the past three years and is now in line with the average for the North East.
“However, levels remain high and are significantly above the national average, which is very concerning.
“The health of mums-to-be and their babies is of prime concern and the best thing pregnant women can do is not smoke.
“Smoking during pregnancy puts babies at risk of a low birth weight, prematurity, cot death, respiratory disease and other childhood illnesses.
“Unfortunately, we have high levels of smoking amongst the general population in Sunderland, and this is reflected in the rates of women smoking during pregnancy.”
A special stop smoking service targeting pregnant smokers runs across the city, and aims to help pregnant women and their families stub out their habit.
Healthworkers are trained to refer all pregnant smokers to the service.
Jenna Patterson, 18, of Tudor Grove, Plains Farm, decided she wanted to pack in as soon as she found out she was pregnant.
And with the help of the specialist service she has kicked her 20-a-day habit.
“I felt as though it was better for my baby now and when it’s born so it won’t be second-hand smoke.
“You hear of all sorts of things that can happen so I gave up as soon as I found out I was pregnant.”
Every week, a healthworker visits Jenna, who is using patches and gum to quit, in her home to give her advice and support on packing up.
She said: “It’s really helped to give me the support I’ve needed to quit smoking.”
Fresh, Smoke Free North East is currently working with midwives across the city to find out how they can support pregnant women in giving up.
Ailsa Rutter, Fresh director, said: “Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous to a mother and also her baby and can cause a number of problems for both.
“We need to do more to get the messages out about these dangers, and also to reassure all women that there has never been more help to quit.”
For help on giving up smoking, phone the NHS Stop Smoking Service on 283 2240.