I was extremely distressed to read in Friday’s paper that Hartlepool has more than twice the national average of women who smoke whilst pregnant. As the Mail said in its editorial, we all know that smoking has risks and we are constantly bombarded with reminders of this. However, shouting very loudly does little good if nobody is interested in listening to what you are saying.
The quantity of warnings is not in doubt, but what about the effectiveness? Does the public understand the risks involved with smoking during pregnancy? The current drive against smoking is focused on plain cigarette packs – but I have to wonder if this will actually influence any smokers at all or if it is just a way for the government to look like they are doing something about the issue?
I don’t want a nanny state, we should not ban smoking – it is a personal choice and any adult should be free to smoke – but like many of your readers I am deeply concerned by the impact it could have on unborn babies. I am also puzzled how Hartlepool can be over twice the national average? I could understand how a town could be over the average, but double?
Regardless of the reason, this is not a problem that will be solved overnight – or by a simple letter from a politician. This is an issue which will require a lot of thought – both locally and nationally and it is one that must be addressed.
In the short term, I would encourage all smokers who fall pregnant to get in touch with your doctor and ask about nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) – patches, gum etc which are available free on this NHS – which coincidentally is yet another reason why key hospital services must be available within Hartlepool.
If anyone would like to discuss how we might begin to approach this important issue or why the rate is so high in Hartlepool then I would love to hear from you in my office at 41 Elwick Road, Hartlepool or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Arnott MEP