The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England said studies found “voucher incentives were acceptable to many pregnant women and healthcare providers”.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of Nice’s centre for guidelines, said: “These draft guideline recommendations are a renewed effort to reduce the health burden of smoking and to encourage and support people to give up smoking.
“Smoking continues to take a huge toll on the health of the nation and accounts for approximately half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in society.
“It is therefore vitally important that we reduce the level of smoking in this country.
“We know that around 10 percent of women are known to be smokers at the time of giving birth and, given the significant health effects of smoking on both mothers and babies, it is clear that further efforts are required to encourage this group to give up smoking.
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“We need to use every tool in our arsenal to reduce smoking rates, including education, behavioural support, financial incentives, and e-cigarettes if people are interested in using them.
“Combined, we hope that people who smoke will feel enabled to give up tobacco products once and for all.”
Britons chimed in on Twitter to discuss the potential policy, most unsupportive.
One wrote: “If pregnant women won’t quit smoking for the sake of their baby but will do it for £400 then I’m really concerned about them as mothers tbh since it isn’t a good sign about priorities.
“Why not give £400 to expectant mothers who aren’t poisoning their children instead?”
“You give up smoking for yourself for it to be successful in the longer term. It may help a small proportion who want to give up,” one said.
Another questioned, “They could quite easily start smoking again after having their baby?”
Another said: “Why are taxpayers rewarding those that could stop but don’t because they’re selfish? Better idea, if their child is born with any issues, they are charged, prosecuted and punished for not safeguarding their child.”
“If they can’t stop smoking with an unborn child inside them I very much doubt £400 will do the job. Do people actually get paid for coming up with this garbage,” another said.
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