ONE in six Southampton women smoke while pregnant, latest figures reveal.

While the city has seen the number of mums-to-be addicted to cigarettes come down, the figure (16.2 per cent) is still too high, say health chiefs.

Meanwhile data for Hampshire shows just over one in seven women (13.4 per cent) failed to kick the habit while expecting, according to figures compiled by the Department of Health for the last 12 months.

Now health bosses are urging pregnant women to stub out the habit once and for all.

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They want to highlight the dangers to unborn babies including a lack of oxygen, premature birth, cot death and the risk of developing asthma and attention deficit disorder later in life.

In some cases health experts believe pregnant women keep their smoking habit secret because they are too ashamed to seek help.

Alan Elgar, senior smoking cessation advisor at Southampton Quitters said: “Stopping Smoking anytime during pregnancy can have health benefits for both mum and baby.

“These include reduced symptoms of morning sickness, fewer complications and a more content baby after birth.

“You are four times more likely to successfully stop smoking if you use NHS support.

“It’s never too late to stop,”

he added.

The worst area in the region for pregnant smokers was Portsmouth where one in five women (20.1 per cent) smoked while they were expecting.

Smokers who want to give up should contact Southampton Quitters on 023 8051 5221 and Hampshire’s Quit 4 Life on 0845 602 4663.

Alternatively call the new NHS Pregnancy Smoking Helpline on 0800 169 9 169.