Ditching the ciggies to go shopping, all in aid of a healthy baby – Natalee Menzies, Maternity Smokefree Advisor

Posted by Natalee Menzies, Maternity Smokefree Advisor on 26 November 2014 |

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A year ago we began offering financial incentives for pregnant women and their whaanau to give up smoking. The initial pilot focused on residents of Manurewa and in the 12 months from August 2013 we received referrals for 211 women and 41 whaanau. Phenomenal! The success of the programme saw it widened in October to include pregnant women in Mangere, Otara and Papatoetoe.

The programme centres around rewarding the women and their whaanau for going smokefree with retail vouchers to a number of stores including Countdown, Kmart and the Warehouse. We’ve found the financial incentives have been the motivation needed for pregnant women to make contact with us and take that all important first step towards going smokefree.

As this is the first time we’ve used a financial reward, I wanted to use this post to explain the thinking behind the programme and to do a bit of extra promotion seeing as we’ve now got a wider catchment. Word of mouth referrals have been extremely effective for us and we’re keen to keep up the momentum. If you know of a pregnant women (up to 28 weeks pregnant) living in Manurewa, Mangere, Otara and Papatoetoe, be sure to pass on our details at the end of this post.

Just to do a bit of maths for a moment: from August 2013 until the end of October 2014 (when the programme was extended) we received referrals for 287 people into the programme, that’s pregnant women and whaanau. Of those, 211 have had a first assessment and 151 have set a quit date, the important first step on the journey. And at the four-week marker, 124 of our people were due to be four weeks smokefree and we’re pleased to say that 69% were (which equates to 64% of the pregnant women). At the 12 week marker just over half were smokefree (or 56% of the pregnant women).

Once the women set a quit date the 12 week programme starts rolling. We meet with them 1:1 on a weekly basis to provide support. We meet them in their home and at each visit we check their carbon monoxide status – yep, that’s right, we ask them to blow into a machine a bit like a breathalyser. This part is extremely important because if they pass this test at the end of week one they get a $50 voucher, straight up. This is an important part of the financial incentives programme as the first seven days are the hardest and feedback tells us that the $50 is a huge motivator.

If they remain smokefree for weeks two, three and four they quality for a $100 voucher. If they have a cigarette, which we refer to as a slip-up not a failure, they are deducted $25. For those smokefree at the end of week eight it’s another $100 voucher and then the final $50 at week 12. This totals $300 for a pregnant woman and there’s a total of $140 available for whaanau.

Now that the programme has been extended my colleague Michelle Lee and I are being supported by Winnie and Sarah from the Mangere Community Health Trust. With a wider area we needed more staff to visit those in the programme and we’re delighted to be partnering with the Trust.

While the vouchers are a huge incentive they can’t take the place of the number one motivator and that’s the individual. If you’re going to give up smoking you have to want to give up. Giving up because someone tells you isn’t going to do it, although giving up to ensure a healthier baby is definitely an overriding impetus.

Most of you reading this post will know these facts, but I felt it was important to repeat them:

  • Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen levels in the blood, making people feel tired and listless and robbing the baby of the oxygen it needs for healthy growth and brain development.
  • The earlier someone stops smoking in pregnancy the better it is for baby. If someone stops smoking by 15 weeks they have reduced all smoking related risks.
  • Becoming smokefree reduces risk of miscarriage, premature and stillbirths. It also helps protect baby from SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy), asthma, glue ear and chest infections.
  • Nicotine replacement products such as gum, lozenges and mouth spray can be used during pregnancy as they are safer than smoking. Nicotine patches can be worn but need to be removed overnight.
  • The nicotine is what causes the urge to smoke – but it’s actually the tar, chemicals and carbon monoxide in smoke (from direct or passive smoking) which are harmful to health.

If you know someone who’s pregnant living in Manurewa, Mangere, Otara or Papatoetoe, we encourage you to mention this programme.

To enrol email smokefree@middlemore.co.nz, phone 0800 569568, text NOW to 226 or visit our Facebook page: Smokefree Counties Manukau 2025