Smoking pregnant women in New Zealand are offered $300 vouchers to quit the habit. The South Auckland government imposed the voucher scheme to protect unborn babies from tobacco damage.
The $300 voucher can be used by Kiwi pregnant women to purchase groceries, baby products, cinema tickets, phone credit and petrol. The voucher for female smokers is part of the government's effort to encourage people to stop tobacco use. An annual increase of 10 percent in tobacco tax for 4 years is already in place.
British American Tobacco has changed its recommended retail price for a pack of Holiday King Size cigarettes now at $18 per pack of 20s, an increase from $16.20.
According to reports, some experts have questioned the effectiveness of government incentives to break smoking habits. However, authorities behind the $300 voucher scheme for pregnant Kiwi smokers insist that overseas trials have proven the use of incentives in motivating those who find it difficult to quit.
The high smoking rate of pregnant Maori women has led New Zealand researchers to find ways to help those who are struggling. In the latest national survey, the smoking rate of adults regardless of ethnicity is 15.5 percent. The rate has declined compared to previous surveys.
For the Maori alone, the smoking rate was significantly higher at 36 percent. Early research studies have found 44 percent of pregnant Maori women were smoking upon contact with a midwife. After the female Maori were discharged, the rate declined to 34 percent.
Studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, babies with low birth weights, pre-term births, sudden infant death syndrome and asthma.
Dr. Marewa Glover, a tobacco control expert from Auckland University, said children whose mothers smoked during their pregnancy have a greater risk of becoming smokers later. The tendency to smoke is greater among girls.
The $300 vouchers for pregnant smokers are given in one week, then 4, 8 and 12 weeks from the date they decided to quit smoking and have since remained smoke-free. The women will be tested by a machine to look for traces of carbon monoxide.
The vouchers cannot be used in exchange for alcohol, tobacco or cash.