One in six pregnant women in East Sussex are putting the health of their unborn babies at risk by continuing to smoke.
Cigarettes can increase the risk of miscarriage or premature birth and the baby could also be born smaller and have birth defects.
Giving up smoking is said to improve the health of the mother and they are less likely to suffer complications when they go into labour.
- MP's warning on new 'severe' terror alert
- Company given £15,000 fine for asbestos work
- Pensioner hit over the head with crowbar
- VIDEO: Thieves raid ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of wine for £20,000 of posh plonk
- The light at the end of the childhood leukaemia tunnel
The figures emerged in East Sussex County Council’s first annual public health report.
It found 18% of women in the county were smoking at the time they booked with the midwife at 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
This only dropped slightly to 16% by nine months.
The information showed a wide variation across the county, where in more deprived areas such as a Hastings, 22% smoking through their pregnancy compared to those in more affluent areas like Lewes, which had a rate of 11%.
A county council spokeswoman said: “All pregnant women in East Sussex are screened at booking by their community midwife, given advice about the harms of smoking for themselves and their baby and are encouraged to stop smoking “An ‘opt out’ referral system to the specialist stop smoking service is in place to give pregnant women tailored support to help them (and their partner and family members if required) to quit during their pregnancy.”
The general advice from the Royal College of Midwives is pregnant women should stop smoking totally for theirs and their unborn child’s health.
The report also revealed a “worryingly high” number of 14 and 15-year-olds who said they smoked, either occasionally or regularly.
Girls tended to smoke more than boys and Hastings had the highest prevalence of young smokers at 30%.
East Sussex is rolling out an Assist programme to encourage young people not to take up smoking.
It uses a peer support approach to educate young people about the dangers of smoking, awareness of tobacco marketing and the benefits of not taking up the habit.
Details of local free NHS stop smoking services are available on 0300 100 1823.