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Smoking blamed for rise in cot deaths.

SMOKING 20 cigarettes a day in pregnancy increases the risk of losing a baby to cot death by 800 per cent, it is claimed.

And 10 cigarettes a day may cause a five-fold increase in risk, while passive smoking is also dubbed "high risk".

The figures were revealed in a Scottish Executive briefing yesterday. Scots cot deaths have doubled in the last six months.

As more Scotswomen smoke, topping world league tables of cancers caused by cigarettes, cot deaths may be a vicious spin-off.

The Scottish Cot Death Trust say 26 babies have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in the first half of this year compared with 13 in the same period last year.

Two more babies are said to have died from the syndrome in the last month and another two cases are suspected.

Elsewhere in Britain, there was a massive drop in cot deaths last year. Official figures for England and Wales released yesterday showed deaths falling by a quarter in 1998 to 284 compared with 393 in 1997 - 28 per cent down.

Scottish cot deaths over the same period also fell from 52 to 37 but experts are now baffled by the recent rise.

The past four years' figures show an unclear trend in the tragedies, with 46 deaths in 1995, 42 in 1996, 52 in 1997 and a fall to 37 in 1998.

Hazel Brooke, the Scottish Cot Death Trust's executive director, admits Scots must be on the alert. She said: "Cot death is far more likely to happen in the winter."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive advised parents not to smoke, while Dr Caroline Blackwell, head of an Edinburgh University research team, said: "If the baby stops breathing or cannot be woken, dial 999."
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Author:McLEAN, JIM
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 5, 1999
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