PARTS of the North-East had the highest proportion of women who were still smoking when they gave birth last year, according to new figures.
More than one in five (20.6 per cent) of women who gave birth in the Durham, Darlington and Tees area were still smoking, making it the worst NHS area in the country.
By contrast, in the London area only around one in 20 (5.1 per cent) of women were still smokers when they gave birth.
The figures for 2013-14 prompted the British Lung Foundation to call for the North-East to be given extra help to tackle high smoking rates during pregnancy.
The Durham, Darlington and Tees figure was significantly higher than the overall North of England figure of 16.2 per cent of women giving birth who still smoked.
The area with the highest proportion of women smoking at the time of delivery within the Durham, Darlington and Tees area was South Tees, where 23.9 per cent were still smokers.
The Durham, Darlington and Tees figure was also higher than the overall figure of 16.5 per cent for the neighbouring Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS area.
Nationally the proportion of women who classed themselves as smokers fell to 12 per cent compared to 12.7 per cent the previous year.
Dr Nick Hopkinson, medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation, said it was “excellent news” that fewer women across England were smoking at the time of giving birth but said the wide variation in smoking rates is a cause for concern.
“Resources to help people to quit need to be targeted especially at areas where rates are still high such as the North-East,” she said.