Not only are the children of pregnant women who smoke more likely to develop a host of health and behavioural problems -- including asthma, attention deficit disorder and difficulty with reading and math -- they are also more likely to take up smoking and to do so at an early age, a new study finds.
The study examined the smoking patterns of children of 3,058 mothers who took part in a long-term study of pregnancy by the University of Queensland and Mater Misericordiae Mothers' Hospital in Australia. The mothers received prenatal care at the Brisbane hospital between 1981 and 1984.
Of the mothers, 53.1 per cent said they never smoked, 35.6 per cent smoked at some stage of pregnancy, and 11.4 per cent said they smoked before or after but not during pregnancy.
Researchers followed up with the children at age 21. Children whose mothers smoked while pregnant were nearly three times as likely to have started smoking before age 14 and to have become regular smokers than children whose mothers never smoked. The children were twice as likely to have started smoking after age 14 and to have become
Researchers said there is evidence that nicotine passes through the placenta and alters brain development in a way that changes how the body responds to nicotine later in life.