Free beauty treatment for mums-to-be to quit smoking

PREGNANT women are being offered free hair cuts and beauty treatments on the NHS if they quit smoking.

Will Clarke

PREGNANT women are being offered free hair cuts and beauty treatments on the NHS if they quit smoking.

The Health Enhancement Reward Scheme (HERS) is being piloted in Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds by the Suffolk Stop Smoking Service.

Women who sign up to the scheme - which is costing �5,000 - can earn women rewards such as a hair or beauty treatments if they stay smoke-free.


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They can also choose to bank their rewards or exchange them for store vouchers to spend in shops like Mothercare. Women taking part in the scheme also spend time with specialist stop smoking advisors on a one-to-one basis each week.

But David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said the NHS initiative was not the best way of using taxpayers' money.

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He said: “It is clearly quite right that young mothers should be discouraged from smoking - not only for their own health but also their children's. But I believe it is up to the individual to exercise some will power, therefore, I don't think that taxpayers' cash should be spent on this first.

“We shouldn't be relying on inducements and vouchers when will power costs nothing.”

Jeff Keighley, deputy coordinator of the service, denied HERS offered bribes but said the incentives were a cost effective “motivational tool” to persuade a “hard to reach” group to quit.

“We could put a lot of money into trying to get people to quit and it would be expensive,” he said. “But we have a scheme which is aspirational.

“HERS is about having a better life, having something to work towards and to measure that progress. When their carbon dioxide level reaches a certain point we reward them with a star and these build up to rewards like a motivational scheme.”

Mr Keighley said the scheme, which has �5,000 of NHS funding earmarked for it, was key in persuading disadvantaged mothers to pick up the leaflets and get them involved but he said they would stay with the programme for the support and the course itself.

Danielle Watts, 29, said she joined the course after experiencing a miscarriage while smoking. She said she was in it for the health of her baby rather than the rewards on offer.

“I am quitting to protect my baby,” she said. “But at the end of the day the rewards make me feel proud, when I sat there having my hair done I thought I've done that and to be honest without that group I don't know where I would be.”

If the women involved already have children, they will be offered a star chart on which the youngsters can help record the progress made by their mothers. The HERS scheme is run at two venues, the Carousel Children's Centre in St Olave's Road, Bury, and the Phoenix Centre, in Tudor Road, Sudbury.

The venues have been specially designed for families, offering toys for young children to play with while their mothers talk to advisors.

Women attending the sessions will be able to chat with other women who are also pregnant and quitting, or who have quit, and find out about what treatment is available to help them.

Anyone interested in the scheme can call 0800 085 6037 or visit www.suffolkstopsmokingservice.co.uk.

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