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7 Sep 2020

Can an app close the gap between smoking and non-smoking mothers?


Researchers from the NIHR ARC for the North East and North Cumbria are evaluating the effectiveness of an app which supports expectant mothers to quit smoking.

Smoking during pregnancy continues to decline across England. However, in the North East and Cumbria, we have a higher percentage of mothers still smoking at the time of birth, compared to the national average.

Nationally, one in ten (10.6%) mothers were still smoking at the time of giving birth. In the North East, the rate is 15.7% and in Cumbria it’s 13.3%. The government target rate is 6% by 2022.

The overall national rate of decrease has slowed in recent years, and in addition to this, Covid-19 has limited the opportunities for pregnant women to get support to stop smoking.

In a bid to address this, our North East Local Maternity System has been encouraging smoking, pregnant women and their partners to use the Smoke Free smartphone app. Smoke Free is designed to change user behaviour related to smoking through self-management, and is informed by behaviour change techniques that are known to be effective. Expectant mothers can use the app alongside currently available stop smoking services.

As part of our Prevention, Early Intervention and Behaviour Change (PEIBC) theme, we are working with colleagues from the Local Maternity System, Fresh, North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System Prevention Board, and North of England Commissioning Support to evaluate the implementation of and engagement with the Smoke Free app in our area.

This mixed-methods evaluation is being undertaken by Dr Ryc Aquino, PEIBC Research Fellow. For more information, please contact [email protected]

For more information about the Smoke Free app, visit