Pregnant women who smoke may put kids at risk for severe asthma
June 1st, 2012
05:03 PM ET

Pregnant women who smoke may put kids at risk for severe asthma

One of the first questions a mom-to-be is asked by her doctor is "Do you smoke?" And while pregnant woman don't smoke in nearly the numbers they did decades ago, some still do.  

Almost 14% of American women smoke while pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, causing all kinds of problems including low birth weight, premature birth and SIDS. Now add something else to the list: asthma.

An intriguing new study suggests African-American and Latino children with asthma whose moms smoke while pregnant are more likely to have severe asthma as teens, even if their moms stop smoking after they are born.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco looked at about 2,500 Latino and African-American children with asthma. After controlling for things like poverty and childhood exposure to tobacco smoke, they found children of women who smoked while pregnant were 50% more likely to have asthma that was harder to control when compared to children with asthma whose mothers didn't smoke during pregnancy. 

"Kids who are 17 years old still show the effects of something they were exposed to during the first nine months of their life," says researcher Dr. Sam Oh, of the University of California San Francisco Center for Tobacco Research and Education. The study didn't look at Caucasian children.

Close to 19% of African American, 6% of Puerto Rican and just less than 4% of pregnant Mexican women smoke, according to the CDC.

"Something is happening during pregnancy that has an effect we believe leads to genetic imprinting," says Oh.  In other words, if mom smokes, her child's DNA changes.  He adds more research needs to be done in light of the high prevalence of asthma among minorities.

The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. bs

    Poverty stricken caucasion women smoke while pregnant TOO...PERIOD! If a study is to be done, studies should include All demographics. The numbers are probably higher across the board for all races because what woman wants to admit they caused harm to their unborn babies? Most will lie first to come off as good coherent and attentive parents. This study should be shredded. All it does is paint all minorities as bad parents and is irresponsibly publishing unfair stats.

    June 1, 2012 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rae

      Good point. I see lower income white people smoking around their kids all the time. Those that step outside to smoke and then go inside to pick up their babies still have carcinogens pasted all over them from the clinging, permeating toxic smoke, so their babies are still exposed.

      June 2, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse |
    • BRUCE


      June 2, 2012 at 20:23 | Report abuse |
    • Mark Glicker

      We don't need a Bloomberg mandate but it is time for folks to put away the cigarettes.

      June 4, 2012 at 05:08 | Report abuse |
  2. Spencer

    Are their other factors that contribute to this, such as DNA and asthma – is there a link there? Where would one go for more information?

    June 1, 2012 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gatornuts

      Common sense will give you all the answers. And unlike the research it wont turn you gay.

      June 4, 2012 at 00:13 | Report abuse |
  3. sameoldsame7

    Yes, African women are more likely to have asthma.

    June 1, 2012 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mary B.

    This is an interesting article. Although they did not test Caucasian children, it is worth noting that I as a Caucasian woman have always wondered what the long term effects of my mother's smoking have done to me. My Mom was pregnant with me in the late 60's - when seemingly everyone smoked. She smoked the entire pregnancy and while I was growing up. I have asthma and have always had sinus-related problems that have led to sinus surgery, allergy shots, inhalers, nose sprays, etc. I also have always suffered from anemia and have never been able to get a handle on it. Now that I don't know if it has anything to do with the results of smoking or not. However, at the age of 4, I had to resort to having blood drawn from my fingers on a weekly basis, subjected to iron shots, etc. I still am anemic at the age of 44. I wish they would do a study on Caucasian children or adults who were subjected to smoking. I'd be very interested in the results of that.

    June 1, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • raceisamyth

      Caucasions are now 2nd class citizens apparently,so why test em?

      June 6, 2012 at 01:38 | Report abuse |
  5. m@yahoo.com

    mary b you are an idiot.. at no part in this article did it say anything about pregnancy smoking causing anemia or allergies. your reading comprehension is sub-par and it somehow ties into flashbacks of childhood memories that are irrelevant. its not just todays youth that seem to have a low intelligence quotient, its just the general population. humanity needs to be cleansed and slimmed down to the people with a higher intelligence quotient than 120.

    June 2, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Eugenics, huh? Lovely, m. You're such a ray of sunshine.

      Despite having an IQ that puts me quite safely within your range of "keepers," I'm disgusted by your suggestion. I believe most sane people would be likewise disgusted. You suggest eliminating the vast majority of the population, including people who have plenty of common sense and a good grasp of reality if they don't meet some sort of arbitrary cutoff for intelligence. Sickening.

      How about this: Instead of eliminating people based on their raw IQ, let's IMPROVE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. We need a change in the culture of education, not a crass population elimination program that (at best) harkens back to Nazi Germany.

      June 4, 2012 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
    • raceisamyth

      Hahaha fix the education system? Just ban ALL sociology classes, replace them with genetics classes....then teach ACTUAL history. Prob solved

      June 6, 2012 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
    • familymashup

      Why in the world would you attack that woman, insult her intelligence a basically be a mean jerk about what she wrote concerning her anemia and allergies. Your arrogance is astounding. It is obvious the woman was suggesting that if smoking by pregnant mothers could effect the offsprings' DNA to the point of asthma development then there could possibly be other epigenetic implications – such as her anemia and allergies. Mary B displayed a great deal of deductive reasoning on her part. YOU, on the other hand, came off as wanting to look smart by putting others down. Learn some manners....

      June 7, 2012 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  6. sam

    March 12, 2008British Medical Journal & WHO conclude secondhand smoke "health hazard" claims are greatly exaggerated The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.What makes this study more significant than any other is that it took place over a 39 year period, and studied the results of non-smokers who lived with smokers..... meaning these non-smokers were exposed to secondhand smoke up to 24 hours per day; 365 days per year for 39 years. And there was still no relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality.This report was of course silenced in the media; however in light of the damage to business, jobs, and the economy from smoking bans the BMJ report should be revisited by lawmakers as a reference tool and justification to repeal the now unnecessary and very damaging smoking ban laws.Also significant is the World Health Organization (WHO) study which concluded "..secondhand smoking doesn't cause cancer..."

    June 2, 2012 at 04:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. sam

    Passive smoking doesn't cause cancer-officialBy Victoria Macdonald, Health CorrespondentThe results are consistent with their being no additional risk for a person living or working with a smoker and could be consistent with passive smoke having a protective effect against lung cancer. The summary, seen by The Telegraph, also states: "There was no association between lung cancer risk and ETS exposure during childhood."And if lawmakers need additional real world data to further highlight the need to eliminate these onerous and arbitrary laws, air quality testing by Johns Hopkins University, the American Cancer Society, a Minnesota Environmental Health Department, and various researchers whose testing and report was also peer reviewed and published in the esteemed British Medical Journal......prove that secondhand smoke is 2.6 – 25,000 times SAFER than occupational (OSHA) workplace regulations.OSHA has established PELs (Permissible Exposure Levels) for all the measurable chemicals, including the 40 alleged carcinogens, in secondhand smoke. PELs are levels of exposure for an 8-hour workday from which, according to OSHA, no harm will result.

    June 2, 2012 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • laurab68

      Sam, why do I get the feeling you are a smoker yourself. To be that nieve is outstanding.
      I've watched both my grandparents die from cancer from smoking (one was, one wasn't but was exposed to it for 50 years). My brother died from smoking related issues. I watched one aunt die from throat cancer, and one from lung cancer. My friend died of lung cancer who lived with a smoker. I have one friend who now had copd from smoking.
      From all that i've seen and have been through personally, I can't be around smokers. I don't allow my children to be around smokers. If my kids want playdates and I know there is a smoker living in their parents house, the kids will have to come over here. While I can't control their future and who they hang around with, for right now, their developing lungs are more precious to me than anything else.
      As a parent, one of my many jobs is to protect my kids, and that includes keeping them away from smokers.
      Don't tell me for one minute that second hand smoke can't kill you. I've seen it first hand.

      June 2, 2012 at 07:29 | Report abuse |
  8. sam

    The truth has been EXPOSED about all the LIES about Passive Smoke

    June 2, 2012 at 04:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. laurab68

    If you are stupid enough to smoke while pregnant, that is bad enough. To find out later your child had developed asthma because of your stupidity...yes it's your fault.
    As an ex-smoker, I know how hard it is to quit. There were times I was huddled in the conference room in the fetal position rocking back and forth because I wanted a smoke so badly. That only lasted a short while. While the urge to smoke never really goes away, my heath was more important than anything else.
    10 years later, I'm healthier, happier and at the prices of smokes these days, I take that money and we go on a vacation every year.....It's not easy to quit by any means, and yes, the withdrawl sucks beyond the telling of it, but it can be done.

    June 2, 2012 at 07:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. m@yahoo.com

    laurab68 you are also an idiot. i watched my grandmother die from cancer and never smoked a day in her life or was exposed to it. she ate healthy, took me hiking, rockclimbing, and worked up until a week before she died. she was the strongest woman i ever knew. but my other grandmother that chain-smokes malboro menthol 100s, a carton every 3 days, and has for 51 years has no heart disease, no cancer, no asthma, or any supposed smoke related condition. you are the kind of person that watches a commercial and suddenly think you are a specialist. you will probably argue that lucky charms are magic and they come from a midget dressed in green. do reseach before you claim to have knowledge about a subject. the majority of the previous commenters have thats why they argued with logic. you argued with ignorance and emotion.

    June 2, 2012 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. m@yahoo.com

    and rae the same applies to you. you probably have a lower intelligence quotient than laurab68, which is definately under 95.

    June 2, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. laurab68

    Oh and m@yahoo.com...you are the expert?? Never did I say in my post that everyone who smokes will die from cancer. The sad fact is that many who smoke will die from smoking related illnesses. Your grandmother was just plain ass lucky.
    Oh and did I call you names?....No I did not. I am not nieve in any way, shape or form. I do not respond by trying to attack anyone's intelligence (although yours may be in question). And no, I do not think that Lucky Charms are magic.
    Your damn right I responded with emotion. You watch several people you love die from cancer, and see how emotional you get.
    One thing is for sure, I'll never let you or your ignorant position around me or my children. You are the one who is ignorant to the effects of smoking, not me.

    June 2, 2012 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Oh how lovely

    Oh man you guys are a laugh. People get real mad in the little comments here. Does beiber know about this?Ha that's funny. Before I found out I was prego I smoked two packs yes that PACKS a day. As soon as I found out I quit. I didn't have any problems with withdrawl. There was no way I was smoking preg. And how is that fair to quit AFTER you have the baby? People are lame and selfish.

    June 3, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. fingers_in_ears

    THIS JUST IN!!! New study shows smoking is good for you! Its rich in vitamins and nutrients, and is now considered an excellent replacement for exercise! While i don't have any hard scientific facts of evidence to back up these claims, my neighbor's great uncle is 85 and has smoked 2 packs a day since he was 9. What more proof do you need than that?! Sign me up!!

    June 3, 2012 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. lalalalala_icanthearyouicanthearyou_lalalalala

    our government has been lying to us about it for all these years! I'm gonna SUE for all the years i should've been SMOKING instead of eating right and exercising! Its Obama's fault!

    June 3, 2012 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. anna

    There is always someone telling you what 'may' happen. It is a lot of bull!

    My mother smoked when she was pregnant as did her friends, none of the children that were born to these mothers had anything wrong with their lungs.

    Someone is always trying to blame something for health problems. I dont think anything causes asthma, some people are just unlucky to get it.

    June 4, 2012 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Ladybug94

    Duh on this article. I digress. I have seen so many women smoking WHILE pregnant so you know they have no problems smoking around their kids.

    June 5, 2012 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. eroteme

    If pregnant women who smoke may put kids at risk for severe asthma, then it follows that pregnant women who do not smoke may put children at risk for severe asthma.

    June 5, 2012 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Lady Luck

    What am I RETARDED?! What an IDIOTIC article! As if I need to be told that a mom's smoking habit could cause her child to develop asthma. Anyone who does not know this by now is a MORON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 7, 2012 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Robbin Goal

    Have you ever thought about publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my readers would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail. Robbin Goal http://www.robinhoodchina.info

    January 31, 2013 at 05:15 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.