Health chiefs in Scotland have voiced concern about the number of women who continue to smoke throughout pregnancy, warning them the health of their unborn babies is at risk.

It follows a study last month which revealed just three out of 100 women smokers in Scotland quit when pregnant. Research for the NHS by Glasgow and Stirling universities showed that thousands of mothers are ignoring the advice of health professionals by continuing to smoke.

The British Medical Association today warns that despite the number of mothers smoking at the start of pregnancy having dropped since 1995, numbers remain high at around 20%. The BMA in Scotland is urging parents to mark World No Tobacco Day by giving up smoking for the sake of their family’s health.

Dr Sally Winning, deputy chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said: “Around one in five women smoke during pregnancy and, although this is an improvement on previous years, it reflects the lack of knowledge among Scots about the health risks of smoking, not only to themselves, but to the health of their children.

“Smoking while pregnant can have long-term effects on the health of a baby. Maternal smoking in pregnancy is a cause of low birth weight in babies and has been linked to cot death. We would urge women smokers who are pregnant or who are considering becoming pregnant to discuss ways of giving up with their GP, pharmacist or health visitor.

“Children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to become smokers themselves. We must act now to break this cycle of tobacco addiction.” The warnings come on the day a campaign is launched to highlight the marketing of tobacco to women.