PREGNANT women who smoke are being given an extra incentive to kick the habit - 100 pounds worth of East of England Co-op vouchers.
The North East Essex NHS Stop Smoking Service is targeting women in Colchester, with a particular focus on the Greenstead area, and Harwich in an initial pilot initiative.
Sue White, co-ordinator of the service said: 'Women who smoke during pregnancy are a key target group for our service. We hope by offering this added incentive of shopping vouchers, it could make the difference with some women between kicking the habit or carrying on smoking.
'Our team already offers a great deal of support to women who want to give up and that support will, of course, continue. Women will be able to sign up to the pilot up until March 7.'
The vouchers can only be redeemed for food from any East of England Co-op store. A women will receive 20 pounds when she has stopped smoking for a week, a further 40 pounds when she has stopped for four weeks and another 40 pounds when she has stopped for a year.
Confirmation of pregnancy will be referral by GP or a midwife, while women who self-refer will be required to show their maternity hand-held notes. Validation of smoking cessation will be via carbon monoxide testing.
Smoking during pregnancy can cause serious problems including complications during labour, increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and even stillbirth. Health risks to the baby if you smoke whilst you are pregnant include: lower birth weight, slower growth of your baby, higher chance of cot death and breathing problems and wheezing in the first six months of life.
The Colchester and Tendring NHS Stop Smoking Service has one of the best records in the country for helping people quit. Further information can be obtained on 0800 7312 656.
Find out more about East of England Co-operative by visiting their website.