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Health managers accused of discriminating against smokers

Wed 7th March, 2012

Three primary care trusts have been criticised after it emerged that smokers have been banned from having IVF fertility treatment.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said smokers paid £10 billion in taxes each year, which “far outweighs” the £2.5 billion annual cost of treating smoking-related illness.

He said: “The NHS is not supposed to discriminate on grounds of creed, colour, or lifestyle. This is clearly a lifestyle issue. We believe it would be wrong and discriminatory.”

GPs have also questioned the ethics of a policy in Devon and Cornwall which means men and women have to quit smoking for six months to qualify for IVF, despite no national guidance on the issue.

Dr Virginia Pearson, chairman of the South West Peninsula Commissioning Priorities Group, was unrepentant, saying smoking does reduce the risk of successful IVF.

She said the policy was based on evidence to help couples achieve a successful result. “Evidence is drawn from the guidance provided by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence which advises that smoking may reduce fertility in women, while for men, there is a link between smoking and poorer quality of sperm. Smoking is also a risk to the baby, smoking exposes the unborn baby to the toxins in tobacco smoke, and can damage the placenta.

Babies born to mothers who smoke are at an increased risk of low birth weight, have poorer lung function and are twice as likely to die from cot death.”

Source: This Is Devon (7 March 2012)

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