A pilot scheme in Hertfordshire which offers pregnant women up to £300 in shopping vouchers as an incentive to give up smoking has been helping dozens try to kick the habit.

The £49,500 scheme was launched by the county council in January 2020, and pregnant women who agreed to set a quit date would initially receive £50 in vouchers.

If they could prove they had successfully stopped smoking after four weeks – by taking a carbon monoxide monitoring test – they would qualify for a further £50 of vouchers with £100 worth after 12 weeks and 34 weeks.

The vouchers can be used to buy a variety of things including food, baby clothing and baby equipment but items like tobacco and alcohol cannot be purchased.

The scheme is run by the Hertfordshire Health Improvement Service and is aimed at 300 of the most vulnerable women who smoke throughout their pregnancy.

Between January 1 and December 31 last year there were 522 referrals with 282 accepting support equating to 54 per cent. This was a rise from 51 per cent in 2019.

The data showed that 107 pregnant women quit smoking for at least four weeks post quit date. This compared to 58 in 2019.

With the women who were eligible for financial incentives, 92 quit at four weeks.

A total of 67 women remained smoke free at 12 weeks. Data for weeks 34 to 36 gestation will be shared at a later date.

The data was shared by council health improvement manager Emily Clarke at a public health and prevention cabinet meeting on February 11.

During a presentation to the panel, Mrs Clarke explained that the women were offered intensive support from a trained stop smoking specialist, regular carbon monoxide testing and offered vouchers at four key points

Councillor Susie Gordon, who sits on the health panel, said: "Thank you for an inspiring set of figures. The offer of the financial incentive of £300 seemingly seems quite a lot which is really something that will inspire people I hope to continue as obviously does happen.

"I am assuming that when the report finally comes out there will be some aspect of monitorising the fact that although the investment was £300, that the health benefits and the savings are greater than that."

The council set aside the funding for the 15 month trial which is due to run until the end of March. A full evaluation will take place this year to inform future service development for pregnant women who smoke.