‘Stop mums-to-be smoking at hospital’

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PREGNANT women should be banned from smoking outside South Tyneside District Hospital, a councillor has demanded.

Mums-to-be lighting up near the Ingham Wing entrance at the Harton Lane hospital, South Shields, is an all-too-common sight.

Coun Ernest Gibson, chairman of the council’s People Select Committee, wants to see it eradicated as he called for a straight ban on smoking around the hospital site.

His request comes as figures which show that smoking in pregnancy within South Tyneside is much higher than both the national and regional average.

Statistics for 2010/11 reveal that 431 women were still smoking when they gave birth.

“That equates to 25.5 per cent of pregnant women, a figure which compares with 21.1 per cent for the North East as a whole and a national rate of just 13.5 per cent.

And although the borough rate is falling, the dependency on nicotine is still creating significant health risks for both mother and child.

Coun Allan West, the council’s lead member for health and wellbeing, said: “This is a real issue for this borough and we are not coming out well in terms of smoking in pregnancy.

“It’s something that we can improve on.”

Coun Gibson said: “Why are we still allowing smoking on the hospital site? Why can’t we ban it? At this council, staff have to go off site if they want to smoke.

“You should not be allowed to smoke anywhere near the hospital.

“I have a similar feeling about smoking in cars when young children are present. Don’t parents realise what damage they are doing to their child and how big the young ones’ lungs are?”

Amanda Healy, the acting director of public health in South Tyneside, said reducing smoking among pregnant women was a top health priority.

But she said government guidelines do not allow a ban on smoking within hospital grounds.