Tobacco and Birth Defects

  • A Johns Hopkins University Study found that children of mothers who smoke were more likely to have oral clefts than children of nonsmokers. Cleft lips, or palates, where the upper lip or roof of the mouth do not close properly, occur in early fetal development.
    “Since this birth defect occurs very early in pregnancy, and since it is the baby’s genes that determine risk, this is one more reason for all women of reproductive age to avoid smoking,” said Terri Beaty, a researcher involved in the study.
    Source: “Mother’s Smoking Can Cause Cleft,” ARLINGTON (Virginia) JOURNAL, April 3, 1995, p. A3.
  • Infants born to mothers who smoke have reduced lung function for years after they are born, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found. The study of almost 9,000 youngsters aged nine to twelve found that the rate at which children can exhale was decreased by about five percent in children whose mothers smoked while pregnant. The greatest damage from smoke occurs in the first trimester, when lung airways are just developing, said Joan Cunningham, lead author of the study.
    Washington Post, July 19)
  • Smoking and SIDS – Infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are nearly three times more likely than the babies of non-smokers to have episodes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to a new study by University of Virginia Medical School.
    SIDS victims are prone to “obstructive apneas,” so the higher apnea rates among smokers’ babies could account for why they are more likely to die of SIDS, said researchers. The study was published in Pediatrics. USA Today, May 10
  • A University of Maryland study found that only 22 percent of heart patients were aware of the risk factors for their illness.
    (Washington Post, Nov. 18, 1994 – How Long does Nicotine Stay in your System)
  • Even light smoking during pregnancy can affect a growing baby. Mothers who smoke only 10 cigarettes a day cause their children under 5 to have positive blood tests for nicotine and cancer-causing compounds. About nine million children 5 and under in the United States are exposed to tobacco smoke, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in September.
    New York Times, Sept. 21, 1994
  • Cigarette smoke may cause a catastrophic disruption of the chromosomes in human eggs that can lead to miscarriage, researchers say. Women who smoke may produce immature eggs with twice the appropriate number of chromosomes and produce highly abnormal fetuses that nearly always result in miscarriages, Maria Teresa Zenzes, a geneticist at Toronto General Hospital, told members of the American Society of Human Genetics in October.
    Associated Press, Oct. 21, 1994
  • According to an annual U.S. Census Bureau survey, almost 17 percent of pregnant women smoked in 1992. The results will be released today as part of the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1995.
    Source: Mark Potok, “Census ’95 Abstract Lists Hard Facts on Life in the USA,” USA TODAY, October 31, 1995, p. A1.
  • A study conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers concludes that nicotine may be a significant factor in causing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The study, published in BRAIN RESEARCH JOURNAL, concludes that pregnant women should abstain from nicotine patches as well as smoking.
    The researchers administered nicotine to rats in doses that equalled the amount smoking mothers would pass onto their fetuses, and the newborn rats suffered the equivalent of SIDS. According to the report, the nicotine-exposed rats lacked the normal tolerance to low oxygen.
    While the link between smoking and SIDS has been reported previously, the study notes it is the first to report on the effects of nicotine on fetal biology.
    Source: “Study Links Nicotine to SIDS,” WASHINGTON TIMES, July 11, 1995, p. A7.
  • Smoking may cause up to 7.5 percent of all miscarriages. Between 19,000 and 141,000 miscarriages per year in the United States can be linked to smoking, and that as many as 26,000 newborns each year are admitted to intensive care units because of low birth weight caused by smoking. Also, as many as 2,200 causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome may be caused by maternal tobacco use.
    Drs. Joe DiFranza and Robert Law, University of Massachusetts’ meta-analysis of 100 studies on smoking, prenatal and neonatal health. Reported in the Journal of Family Practice, April, 1995.
  • Maternal smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of asthma in children. Source: Reuters, 1997
  • Smoking during pregnancy has been linked as a risk factor for a severe anti-social behavior in children, called “conduct disorder.”
    Source: The Washington Post, August 5, 1997