A DETERMINED mum has completed a year free from cigarettes for the sake of her baby daughter.
Hartlepool mum Claire Marsh, 28, called on other mums-to-be to match her determination to succeed after the Mail highlighted recently how a shocking one in four women in Hartlepool smoked while pregnant.
NHS figures for the last 18 months show that 431 women admitted smoking in pregnancy, which is an average of 25.1 per cent of the 1,716 women who gave birth.
Claire packed in cigarettes in December 2009 as soon as she found out she and her partner Gavin were expecting a child, Olivia, who arrived in August.
Claire stopped with the help of a Community Midwifery Assistant from Stockton and Hartlepool NHS Stop Smoking Service and is now looking forward to a second smoke-free year.
She said: "Olivia is fantastic. She's a good sleeper and eater.
"Things would be very different if I still smoked. I never wanted to be smoking when I was pregnant as I knew about all the risks, and I didn't want her growing up in a smoky home.
"I feel so much better now I have quit. I go to the gym two or three times a week and even though you get some sleepless nights, I have more energy than I did have.
"It's only after I quit I realised how much smoking was really affecting me. I was tired all the time."
Claire's complete turnaround meant she had more money to spend on her child at Christmas.
"Every penny we used to spend on cigarettes was spent on Olivia instead. The money that previously went up in smoke bought us a new cot, toys and some nice designer clothes for her.
"I spent many years thinking I couldn't quit. Even if it takes three or four times to quit, I would tell anyone to just keep giving it a go.
"As long as you are still trying, you are not failing."
Judith Rees, pregnancy specialist adviser for Stockton and Hartlepool Hartlepool NHS Stop Smoking Service, said: "Often women who are pregnant are worried they'll be judged when they seek support to quit.
But smoking is often an addiction rather than a choice and it's not always that easy.
"My message to any pregnant women in Hartlepool wanting to quit is hold your head up, be proud, don't be nervous to seek support and give it your best shot. We've helped hundreds of women to quit so come and see us."
Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: "Claire's story shows how inspiring children are to give their parents that extra drive to quit smoking."
Pat Marshall, Manager of Stockton and Hartlepool NHS Stop Smoking Service, said: "One of the main causes of people lapsing when they quit is not having the right support in the first place. Their best possible chance of success is through using an NHS Stop Smoking Service."
People can access help by phoning the Stockton and Hartlepool NHS Stop Smoking Service on 01642 635650, or by phoning the NHS Helpline on 0800 022 4 332 or visiting smokefree.nhs.uk