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Secondhand Smoke Impacts Neurodevelopment in Newborns

Secondhand Smoke Affects Neurodevelopment in Newborns  A new study shows that newborns exposed to nicotine from mothers who smoke and mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke show impaired physiological, sensory, motor, and attention responses.

While smoking during pregnancy has been linked to many problems in infants, including learning difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even obesity, the new study analyzes the effects of “passive smoking” or being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.

Scientists at the Behavior Evaluation and Measurement Research Centre of the Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, evaluated the behavior of 282 healthy newborns using the Neonatal Behavioral Evaluation Scale. The scale allows for interaction with the newborn to evaluate its behavior and responses between 48 and 72 hours after birth.

From those mothers studied, 22 percent smoked during pregnancy and about 6 percent were exposed to passive smoking. Out of the mothers who smoked, 12.4 percent had between 1 and 5 cigarettes a day; 6.7 percent had between 6 and 10 a day; and 2.8 percent had between 10 and 15 a day. None of them smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day.

“Newborns who have had intrauterine exposure to nicotine, whether in an active or passive way, show signs of being more affected in terms of their neurobehavioral development,” said psychologists Drs. Josefa Canals and Carmen Hernández, lead authors of the study.

“This could be an indicator of pathologies, independently of sociodemographic, obstetric and pediatric factors.”

The results reveal that those born to smoking and passive smoking mothers score low in their ability to inhibit stimuli that could alter the central nervous system.

Additionally, children of passive smoking mothers have poor motor development and those of smoking mothers have less ability to regulate behavior and response in physiological, sensor, motor and attention terms, the researchers said.

“Health professionals should encourage future mothers and their families to eliminate or reduce tobacco consumption,” said Canals, who outlines the importance of informing mothers on the effects of involuntary exposure to cigarette smoke in order to prevent direct damage to the fetus and infant development.

Source: Universidad Rovira i Virgili


Secondhand Smoke Impacts Neurodevelopment in Newborns

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2015). Secondhand Smoke Impacts Neurodevelopment in Newborns. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 10, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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