THE GOVERNMENT IS to consider making nicotine patches freely available to pregnant women in a effort to reduce the number of those smoking while pregnant.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White told the Dáil yesterday that it is estimated that between 18 per cent and 21 per cent of Irish women smoke during pregnancy.
The Minister of State said that research has shown that age and socioeconomic factors are key determinants of smoking in pregnancy.
White was speaking in response to a question from Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne who spoke of her concern in seeing heavily pregnant women smoking outside the Coombe Hospital in Dublin.
The deputy pointed to the findings published in the US journal which she said showed that babies born to mothers who have smoked during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing a wide range of infections.
“They are 50 per cent more likely to be hospitalised or die as a result of these infections, compared with babies born to mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy, ” she said.
Byrne said combatting this problem was primarily an issue of education but also suggested that the Government follow the lead of other countries in providing subsidised quit supports for pregnant smokers:
Will the Minister of State consider making a medical intervention such as is found in other European countries, for example, England, where nicotine patches are made freely available to pregnant women as a matter of course? This could be the first step in making a difference in the lives of a mother and her unborn baby.
White confirmed that the suggestion would be discussed and raised with Minister of Health James Reilly.