Expectant mums to be in the North-east are three times more likely to smoke than those living in the London area according to the new figures from 2011 published today

Comparing the two extremes at either end of the scale, the survey found that up to 30% of pregnant women in Blackpool were smokers compared with just 2.8% in Brent, London.

The report said “Babies from deprived backgrounds are more likely to be born to mothers who smoke, and to have much greater exposure to secondhand smoke in childhood.”

Women who smoke while pregnant can cause serious health problems for their unborn child, warns the NHS – problems which include “lower birth weight, pre-term birth, placental complications and perinatal mortality.”

 “The north-south divide revealed in these statistics highlights the gaping health inequalities in access to appropriate public health services,” said Louise Silverton of the Royal College of Midwives.