Mothers' smoking causes lifelong damage to children's lungs

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Mothers' smoking causes lifelong damage to children's lungs

February 15, 2004

A report published today showed that smoking by mothers adversely affected their children's lifelong lung health.

The University of Glasgow study built upon an earlier population study conducted in the 1970's that identified parents who were smokers.  About 25 years later, 3,202 adults who were children of these smoking parents were studied.

Their lung health had been affected by their mothers' smoking in at least three ways.

Firstly, their lung volumes were lower, regardless of whether or not they themselves had smoked.

Secondly, offspring of smoking mothers tended to be heavier smokers and were less likely to quit smoking.

Thirdly, there was increased airflow limitation in the lungs of adult smokers whose mothers had also smoked “ in excessive of the expected airflow limitation caused by their personal smoking.

œThis study is just one more example of the need to be smoke-free and the need to protect children from tobacco smoke, said Paul Van a Health Educator for the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.

Children of smoking mothers are at greater risk of developing respiratory infections and asthma.

œThe damage caused by tobacco use is both extensive and variable, adds Van Loon. œAs more longer term studies are done, we learn more and more about how children are impacted by exposure to tobacco smoke.

Airflow limitation is one of the symptoms of COPD which stands for Chronic Obstructive lung Disease.  COPD is already the fourth leading cause of death in Canada and is forecast to be the third leading cause of death in the world by 2020.

œAlthough we can't predict which individual smokers will develop COPD, we do know that 15% of those who start smoking will eventually develop COPD about 30 years later, said Jan Haffner who manages the Lung Association's Breathworks program to help people with COPD.

œKnowing that maternal smoking is a risk factor for COPD might be helpful in earlier identification of COPD, adds Haffner.


Maternal and personal cigarette smoking synergize to increase airflow limitation in adults.
MN Upton, G Davey Smith, A McConnachie, CL Hart and GC Watt
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Feb 15 2004, vol 169, pp 479-487.


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