I can’t stick this £400 carrot

Aasma Day, Lancashire Evening Post Health Correspondent
Aasma Day, Lancashire Evening Post Health Correspondent
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Smoking mums-to-be should not be bribed to quit the ciggies

I totally understand the carrot and stick approach and how different people respond to a combination of punishments and rewards.

Pregnant woman smoking

Pregnant woman smoking

However, I’m sure I am not the only one totally incensed by the results of a trial which reveals that offering pregnant women who smoke £400 of shopping vouchers will make them more likely to quit.

WHAT?! This is utterly ridiculous and not a ‘carrot’ in any shape or form but an unashamed bribe. It was enough to make smoke come steaming out of my ears.

Is safeguarding the health and wellbeing of your unborn baby not incentive enough?

The trial, involving 600 women, showed more than 20 per cent of pregnant women offered the vouchers stopped smoking, compared to just nine per cent of those given normal NHS support.

Life is full of choices and my view is usually live and let live. If people choose to smoke knowing the health risks and the fact they are effectively burning their money, then that’s up to them…

So long as they don’t start whinging about being skint or having a bad cough. However, choosing to slowly drip feed the poison from cigarettes to their unborn baby is a totally different matter.

Never having been a smoker, I appreciate I cannot comprehend how difficult it is to give up cigarettes when you are addicted to nicotine and I have every sympathy.

I have plenty of vices myself and, if I choose to eat a big bag of Kettle Chips in one sitting, followed by a family-sized 
Galaxy bar, and then wash it down with a pint of Baileys, that would be my choice and no-one’s fault but my own if it led to sky-high cholesterol and a 60-inch waist.

But the bit I find myself unable to fathom is how these poor “addicted” pregnant women who find it so terribly difficult to give up smoking can suddenly miraculously find themselves “unaddicted” upon the production of £400 of vouchers. Which means these chain-smoking mums-to-be could theoretically have given up anyway without the influence of freebies.

If you can give up smoking for money, but not for the sake of your unborn child, then you’ve already failed at the first hurdle of motherhood.

Having children means making sacrifices so you can give them the best possible chance in life. Which doesn’t mean filling them with smoke before they’ve even been born.

It might sound harsh, but if you can’t stop smoking for nine months for the sake of the life you are growing, then you don’t deserve to be a parent in my opinion.

After all, other mums had to make sacrifices when we were pregnant. Laying off the booze, not eating pate, shellfish or blue cheese for a start. You can’t even have a Mr Whippy for fear of listeria and I hardly dared drink coffee when I was expecting my twins as I didn’t want the caffeine to harm them.

I have a better plan for encouraging pregnant smokers to give up. Get them to pay £400 upfront and if they manage the whole nine months without having a sneaky fag, they can have it back.

Surely giving up smoking is a financial incentive in itself due to all the cash you’ll save by NOT smoking.

Wouldn’t it be better to have an incentive for people to not start smoking in the first place rather than bribing them to give up?

Most smoking mums-to-be who give up will probably start smoking the moment they’ve given birth anyway. And living with secondhand smoke can do just as much damage to a child as it does when they’re in the womb.

And why is it always the wrongdoers who get the “rewards” anyway, while those who play things straight get nothing? Why not give the £400 vouchers to pregnant non-smokers instead? That’ll give the smokers something to aspire to.

Or what about a £400 fine for any woman caught to be smoking during pregnancy. The stick approach will probably work better when it comes to getting them to give up the cancer sticks.

I don’t see why it isn’t illegal anyway. It’s against the law to smoke in a car with children, but you can smoke while you’re pregnant?

If anything, giving pregnant smokers £400 of vouchers to stop smoking is actually a great incentive to START smoking. I think I might take up smoking out of pure petulance, then get myself up the duff and THEN try and quit... but only if they bribe me with shopping vouchers.

What’ll be next? Declaring smoking is a disability and paying people benefits for it?

Maybe we should offer alcoholics bribes not to drink, or drug addicts M&S vouchers if they don’t shoot up.

How about paying children cash not to truant from school? Or bribing the obese to stop eating takeaways?

The question is, in these days of the NHS struggling, and cancer patients being denied life-saving drugs, where will this £400 of vouchers for smoking mums-to-be come from?

There is an option which will be cheaper for the NHS in the long-run when it comes to pregnant smokers.

Sterilisation.