TACKLING teenage pregnancy should take priority over smoking cessation services, according to a councillor.

Sharron Brook said the money spent on stopping people smoking was 'horrendous'.

"Smoking has been a priority for the last seven years," she said. "If we haven't achieved anything in that time, I don't think we will achieve anything in the future. The money that's been spent on it is horrendous."

She said more should be done to warn of the dangers of drinking alcohol while pregnant and said drink led to teenage pregnancies and caused foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) - a pattern of mental and physical defects in a foetus.

It causes permanent central nervous system damage resulting in poor memory, attention deficit and impulsive behaviour. The condition can also predispose a person to mental health problems and drug addiction.

Cllr Brook, Labour member for Dearne South, told Barnsley Council's overview and scrutiny committee that alcohol and pregnancy should take priority over other health issues.

"Teenage pregnancies and alcohol use should be at the top of our list. Alcohol is what causes young women to say yes when they should be saying no; when drink is in, wits are out."

In Barnsley, the teenage pregnancy rate is 44.1 per cent per 1,000 population. This is set against 33.8 per cent per 1,000 for Yorkshire and Humber and 30.7 per cent per 1,000 for England.

Cllr Brook said: "We're in a position where children are having children. I don't know who is the mum and who is the child. Unless we stop the cycle we could go on forever."

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