In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, 13.8 per cent of new mothers said they were smokers at the time of their delivery.

The statistic has led to a call by Smokefree South West and a coalition of baby charities, campaigners, leading academics and health experts to call for a national carbon monoxide (CO) screening programme for mums-to-be to help save more babies’ lives.

Smoking during pregnancy causes up to 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 perinatal deaths every year in the UK. It also increases the risk of developing a number of respiratory conditions; attention and hyperactivity difficulties; learning difficulties; problems of the ear, nose and throat; obesity; and diabetes.

A new report to health ministers, published today by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, led by The Lullaby Trust and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies (UKCTCS) and supported by ASH, highlights that one baby dies every day as a result of mothers smoking during pregnancy.

Smoking is the main cause of high levels of CO in pregnant women, but a raised CO reading can also be due to breathing in second-hand smoke, the inhalation of fumes from faulty exhausts, or poorly ventilated cooking or heating appliances.

Members of the group, which also includes the Royal College of Midwives, and the Royal College of Nursing, say urgent action is needed to help pregnant women identify whether they have high CO levels that may be damaging to the health of their baby.

Latest Government figures show that one in eight women in England continue to smoke throughout their pregnancy. In 2011, the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England set out national ambitions for reducing smoking and the report warns that the target for smoking in pregnancy risks being missed unless urgent action is taken.

The group say that offering every pregnant woman in the country a simple breath test to identify her level of exposure to CO, will allow smokers to consider quitting, and non-smokers to identify whether they have had any involuntary exposure from other sources such as faulty appliances.

The Lullaby Trust’s Chief Executive Francine Bates, said: “We know that smoking in pregnancy is a significant risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s been estimated that over 100 SIDS deaths could be prevented every year if no pregnant woman smoked.

“Mothers under 20 are five times more likely to suffer the tragedy of SIDS than those over 30. They are also more likely to smoke and find it difficult to understand why smoking has such a devastating impact on their baby’s health. Immediate results from a quick and simple test, together with the support from their midwife could persuade many young women to kick their habit”