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Smoking During Pregnancy Associated with Tobacco Dependence Among Offspring

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An interesting study recently reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry asks the critical question of whether smoking during pregnancy is linked with smoking behaviors among children born to smoking mothers. There is already an abundance of research highlighting the problems faced by  the babies of smoking mothers; this is a new twist.

The researchers conducted a longitudinal (over time) study, and examined 3,020 Swedish youth between the ages of 11-18 born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy. They stayed in contact with the mothers and the offspring for many years following birth to see if the children were more likely to smoke. Their research shows that girls prenatally exposed to maternal tobacco use had a two- to threefold higher chance of experiencing a high number of withdrawal symptoms, tobacco cravings, and heavy tobacco use (five or more cigarettes or snus dips per day).

These associations were weaker among boys, and were not statistically significant. The associations between prenatal tobacco exposure and onset of regular tobacco use in both genders was mostly explained by parents’ social position and postnatal smoking behavior.

The habit of smoking is very difficult to manage by those who are addicted. Research has demonstrated that kids who use tobacco at a very young age are more likely to become long term smokers with serious addiction consequences. The bottom line here is to provide a non-smoking environment in the home with continuous discussion between children and parents, significant adults, grandparents, etc. This can help children recognize the hazards of smoking. Make this a topic of discussion in your home, too!

Author

Gary L. Hopkins, MD, DrPH, MPH is currently an associate research professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan where he is also associate director of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions, Director of the Center for Prevention Research and Director of the Center for Media Impact Research.