MORE pregnant women are smoking in Hartlepool than the national average.
And the trend comes at a time when women smokers were revealed to be more likely to have a heart attack than men.
The town also suffers from a higher than average death rate linked to smoking, figures have shown.
Figures show the town’s rate of pregnant smokers is 22.6 per cent of women compared to 21.1 per cent in the North-East, and 13.5 per cent nationally.
Deaths attributed to smoking stand at 316.1 per 100,000 people in Hartlepool, compared to 282.5 per 100,000 regionally, and 216.0 nationally.
Town death rates from heart disease which are linked to smoking stand at 37.7 per 100,000 people compared to 39.8 regionally, and 32.1 nationally.
The statistics come at a time when a national study showed women who smoke had a much higher risk of a heart attack than men.
Today, campaigners at the anti-smoking group FRESH, began their own calls for tougher action to crack down on the glamour of smoking.
Ailsa Rutter, director of FRESH, said: “The study of 2.4 million people published in The Lancet shows that women who smoke have a much higher risk of heart attack then men.
“While in the North-East we’ve seen the most rapid drop in number of smokers overall, this is still a big issue for us as we have a higher prevalence of female smokers in the region.”
She said the North-East levels of smoking rates among women stood at 23 per cent of women over 16, or 248,000 women.
“We are particularly seeing smoking becoming more and more prevalent among younger women.”
She said the industry was using certain types of cigarettes to “exploit and encourage an obsession with fashion and staying slim – and in the North-East 14 per cent of younger girls are admitting they smoke regularly.
“FRESH would like to see the issue of plain packaging taken seriously in a bid to tackle this issue as glamorous packaging does help to recruit new customers – if it didn’t, the tobacco industry would not spend millions of pounds in developing these new products.”
Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke may have a more potent effect on women due to biological differences, scientists believe.
They analysed data on four million people and found that the increased risk of heart disease linked to smoking was 25 per cent higher for women.