Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Prenatal programming or just a bad example?

MSNBC - Future smokers may be programmed in womb
Future smokers may be programmed in the womb to take up the habit later in life, research published on Tuesday said.

Scientists in Australia have discovered that children of women who smoked during pregnancy were more likely to become smokers than other youngsters.

They suggest nicotine from cigarettes passes through the placenta and may act directly on the developing brain of the unborn child.

. . .

The researchers studied the smoking patterns of more than 3,000 mothers and their children who took part in a long-term study in Brisbane, Australia.

Children of the 1,000 women who had smoked during pregnancy were three times more likely to start smoking by the age of 14 and twice as likely afterwards compared to other children.
I really feel like this report is missing some vital information. What is the nature of the "other youngsters"? Are these other children ones whose mothers smoke now but did not smoke while pregnant? What about if the father smokes and the mother is exposed to second-hand smoke while pregnant, but does not personally smoke? What if she only smokes in the first few weeks of pregnancy, but stops as soon as she finds out she is pregnant?

It seems fair to me to think that if a woman smokes while she is pregnant, she is likely to continue to smoke after the child is born. If these are the only cases that were tested against the children of women who were never smokers, it seems hard to defend the idea that it is "preprogrammed in the womb" and not just picking up the habits of the parent.

I have never been a smoker. However, when I was pregnant with my middle child (now 15 years old) I was around second-hand smoke a lot. That's why I would be interested in knowing the real results of such a survey that was really scientific and had appropriate control groups.

Again I say, more information in the report would have been helpful.

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