MUMS-to-be are refusing to give up smoking despite the deadly dangers to their unborn children.
Nearly one in five expectant women in some parts of the country carry on lighting up, figures show.
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The rate is above the national average of ten per cent in 17 out of 44 NHS regions. And it climbs to at least 17 per cent in Shropshire and Telford, Lincolnshire and in the Humber area.
Campaigners say anti-smoking drives are being hit by cuts to public health spending.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said it would be years before promised anti-smoking funding produced results. She added: “Too many places are still not doing enough to help pregnant women quit smoking. This has a real cost in babies’ lives.”
Smoking while pregnant has been linked to premature and still birth, as well as cot death.
But thousands of women in poorer areas are ignoring the risks, the NHS figures suggest.
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The lowest rates of pregnant women smoking — at about four per cent — are in South West and North West London.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “These shocking figures show the scale of inequality women across the country are facing.”
The Department of Health said smoking in pregnancy was in decline but it had pledged to cut it to six per cent by 2022.
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