PREGNANT women in Glasgow could be offered cash incentives to quit smoking.

A plan to offer expectant mums financial rewards if they give up cigarettes is on the table after trials showed it almost tripled the quit rate.

Hundreds of women were offered up to £400 in high street vouches if they reached the end of their pregnancy smoke-free during a pilot launched in 2011.

At a meeting of Glasgow’s Public Health Committee, Professor Carol Tannahill, who advises the Scottish Government on social policy, said the evidence for the scheme was “strong and robust.”

Around 16% of pregnant women in Glasgow are smokers, slightly less than the national average.

Smoking 10 or more cigarettes per day during pregnancy has been proven to double the risk of stillbirth. 

Some concerns were expressed that the scheme could encourage women to take up smoking but Professor Tannahill said there was “no evidence” that this happened during the trials between 2011 and 2013.

The move has been welcomed by Glasgow GPs and the charity Ash Scotland, who said it was a cost-effective way to improve health.

Six hundred women took part in the original pilot scheme, which cost £750,000 and was co-funded by the NHS and the Scottish Government, along with research grants.

Women were tested during the process using a carbon monoxide breath test, urine and saliva samples as well as blood tests.

The study found significantly more women in the voucher group (22.5%) stopped smoking by late pregnancy (34 to 38 weeks) compared with the control group (8.6%).

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of health campaign ASH Scotland, said: “Every baby has the right to be born free from the harm caused by tobacco smoke.

If we have an effective and cost-effective measure to help give children the best start in life then who can argue with that.”

Anne Mullin, a GP at Govan Health Centre, said: “Any incentive to stop smoking in pregnancy that improves quit rates and has an evidence base to support that is a worthy project. 

“Particularly when the effects of smoking on maternal health and infant health and birth weight are socially patterned.”

Conservative MSP for Glasgow Annie Wells welcomed the scheme but cautioned that it might not win universal support from the public.

She said: “If this scheme results in fewer pregnant women harming their unborn babies, then it’s clearly a good thing.

But there’s no doubt people will be annoyed at the use of taxpayers’ cash to bribe people in this way.”

A spokeswoman for NHGSSC said: “Following the success of a pilot project, which took place between 2011 and 2013, supporting pregnant women to stop smoking, we are exploring the potential of developing this project over the coming months.”