Invited commentary: Parental smoking as a risk factor for adult tobacco use: can maternal smoking during pregnancy be distinguished from the social environmental influence during childhood?

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Jun 15;179(12):1418-21. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu079. Epub 2014 Apr 22.


Parental smoking is known to have prenatal health effects on developing fetuses, and postnatal exposure to secondhand smoke causes adverse health effects during childhood and beyond. Further, there is solid evidence that parental smoking during childhood is a potent risk factor for smoking in offspring. In this issue of the Journal, Rydell et al. (Am J Epidemiol. 2014;179(12):1409-1417) add to a growing body of evidence showing that maternal smoking during pregnancy is statistically associated with the long-term risk of tobacco use in offspring. The data revealed a strong signal between maternal smoking during pregnancy and tobacco use in young adulthood, an association that was largely concentrated in snus use but not cigarette smoking. This new study adds to a growing body of epidemiologic evidence that consistently points toward maternal smoking during pregnancy being associated with an increased risk of offspring tobacco use in later life. There is also evidence from animal models indicating that fetal exposure to maternal nicotine use in utero can have a durable impact on the neural pathways that affect lifetime sensitivity to nicotine. This is an important research topic that continues to yield a consistent signal despite an array of inferential challenges.

Keywords: cigarette smoking; parental smoking; pregnancy; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Use / epidemiology*