A new study has revealed that smoking ten cigarettes a day while pregnant can lead to behavioural problems in children as they reach adolescence.
Smoking during pregnancy has long been known to harm an unborn baby, but now, there’s evidence that smoking even just ten cigarettes a day has negative effects well into a child’s adolescence.
Researchers from Boston in the US have found that the use of tobacco, which is previously linked to premature birth and low birth weight, can cause behavioural problems among children well into their teenage years.
In the UK, an estimated 12 percent and in the US, 12 to 20 percent of pregnant women smoke, putting themselves and their babies at risk.
Dr Ruth Rose-Jacobs, from Boston Medical Center and Boston University, said that education is important to prevent negative outcomes. “Given that as few as ten cigarettes can have a negative impact, it’s imperative that we act on this and provide as much access and education as we can to help prevent these negative outcomes.”
The study was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence and is the first to look at the long-term effects of prenatal tobacco exposure on teenagers in high school.
The study asked teachers to fill in behaviour assessments on 131 of their pupils — 51 percent of them male and 89 per cent African American and went to school in an ‘urban community’. The team also gathered information on a child’s exposure to substances such as the chemical element, lead and violence.
The study found that smoking in pregnancy disrupts a child’s ‘executive functioning’ such as organisational abilities, attention span and time management skills, as well as self management of their behaviour.
Results showed that only tobacco was associated with the students having less optimal executive functioning in the classroom, particularly impacting their ability to regulate their behaviour.
Now, Dr Rose-Jacobs called for more efforts to be done to help pregnant women quit smoking.
“Because tobacco is one of the most common substances used during pregnancy and it’s legal for adults to use these results indicate the tremendous importance of bolstering efforts to ensure that women of child-bearing age and pregnant women have increased access to evidence-based tobacco smoking cessation programmes,” she said.