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Babies Exposed to Smoke with Lower Reading Scores

Mothers who smoke more than one pack of cigarettes per day during pregnancy may be putting their babies at a disadvantage by affecting their brain development. Scientists have found that kids of mothers who smoked heavily during pregnancy have lower reading scores that children who were not exposed to nicotine while in the womb.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine report that children of smoking mothers struggled on tests which measured reading accuracy and comprehension. Lead author Dr. Jeffrey Gruen, professor of pediatrics and genetics at Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues used data from a large study known as Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which involved more than 5,000 children. The team tested the children’s reading abilities at age seven and then at age nine, and compared the results between children whose moms smoked at least one pack of cigarettes per day and those whose moms never smoked.

After adjusting for socioeconomic status, mother-child interactions, and other factors that could affect the results, the investigators found that kids who were exposed to high levels of nicotine in the womb scored 21% lower compared to kids of non-smokers. Further analysis showed that kids of smoking moms ranked lower than their classmates, in terms of reading skills.

The researchers also report that the effect of smoking could have an interaction with a heritable trait which can affect a child’s speech, and vulnerable children may exhibit reading as well as speech deficits.


Yale University. Smoking in pregnancy tied to lower reading scores. ScienceDaily.

Posted in: Cigarette Smoking, News Briefs, Secondhand Smoke, Secondhand Smoke, Smoking

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