Heat or Burn? Impacts of Intrauterine Tobacco Smoke and E-Cigarette Vapor Exposure on the Offspring's Health Outcome

Toxics. 2018 Aug 1;6(3):43. doi: 10.3390/toxics6030043.


Maternal smoking during pregnancy leads to gestational complications and organ disorders in the offspring. As nicotine replacement therapy is often ineffective for smoking cessation, pregnant women turn to alternatives such as heat-not-burn tobacco and e-cigarettes. Recently, the popularly of e-cigarettes has been increasing especially among the youth and pregnant women, mainly due to the advertisements claiming their safety. This has even led to some clinicians recommending their use during pregnancy. E-cigarettes heat e-liquid to produce an aerosol (e-vapor), delivering flavorings and nicotine to the user. However, e-vapor also contains toxins such as formaldehyde along with heavy metals and carcinogenic nitrosamines. In addition, specific flavoring compounds such as diacetyl can be toxic themselves or decompose into toxic compounds such as benzaldehydes. These compounds can induce toxicity, inflammation and oxidative stress in the mothers and can accumulate in the developing fetus, affecting intrauterine development. Recent animal studies suggest that maternal e-vapor exposure during pregnancy could cause respiratory and neurological disorders in the offspring. This review will examine the available literature to shed light on the current understanding of this problem-to-be from lessons learned in animal models.

Keywords: e-cigarette; heat-not-burn tobacco; maternal smoking; nicotine-free; offspring.

Publication types

  • Review