Smoking causes widespread damage to children’s health and
may increase the risk of foetal malformations according to a report
from the British Medical Association (BMA), published last
The investigation into the impact of tobacco on reproductive and
child health examines how parental smoking affects children from
conception onwards. Researchers said exposure to second-hand smoke
was risky during pregnancy and could have long-term and serious
consequences for child health.
The BMA has called for fully paid leave for pregnant workers who
cannot be protected from passive smoking during pregnancy and more
ambitious government targets to reduce overall smoking rates.
In the report, researchers link passive smoking with cot death,
respiratory infection in children and the development of childhood
asthma. There is also substantial evidence linking it to reduced
foetal growth and premature birth.
The report includes new evidence that smoking may increase the
risk of certain foetal malformations, such as cleft lip and
Women who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to
have a low birth weight baby – something that is closely linked to
illness and death in infancy. Smoking during pregnancy also
increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and death of the
Smoking can compromise breastfeeding, with women who smoke
producing less milk, of poorer quality, said researchers.
Exposure to second-hand smoke in childhood is associated with
increased hospitalisation. It is estimated that each year more than
17,000 children under five years old are admitted to UK hospitals
because of respiratory illness caused by exposure to other
people’s cigarette smoke.
‘Smoking and reproductive life – the impact of smoking on
sexual, reproductive and child health’ by the BMA is available at