Smoke exposure, wheezing, and asthma development: a systematic review and meta-analysis in unselected birth cohorts

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2015 Apr;50(4):353-62. doi: 10.1002/ppul.23037. Epub 2014 Mar 20.


Background: The understanding of the role of smoking exposure in the induction of wheezing and asthma in children is important for prevention.

Methods: A systematic review of literature and a meta-analysis were conducted to identify studies on unselected prospective birth cohorts. The effect of exposure to maternal/parental smoking on the induction of current wheezing or asthma was evaluated in children aged 6 months, <6 years, and ≥6 years. Pooled odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated.

Results: We identified 43 papers. Exposure to maternal prenatal smoking was associated with an increased risk of wheezing in <6-year-olds (OR 1.36; 95% CI: 1.19-1.55) and of wheezing or asthma in ≥6-year-olds (OR: 1.22, 95% CI: 1.03-1.44). A positive association (OR: 1.24, 95% CI: 1.11-1.38) was also found in the only three studies that evaluated exposure to maternal prenatal smoking alone. Postnatal exposures to maternal/parental smoking were associated with wheezing in <6-year-olds (OR: 1.21; 95% CI: 1.13-1.31 and OR: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.13-1.51), although it was often impossible to separate the role of postnatal from that of prenatal exposure; data in schoolchildren are limited and this precluded a meta-analysis. No clear association was found between exclusive postnatal exposure and wheezing or asthma.

Conclusions: We confirmed an important role of prenatal exposure to maternal smoking on the induction of wheezing and asthma in offspring, particularly in the first years of life. More studies with a consistent number of subjects only exposed to smoke postnatally are needed to better investigate the harmful effects on the induction of wheezing or asthma, particularly in schoolchildren.

Keywords: adolescent; child; respiratory tract diseases; tobacco smoke pollution.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution