Objectives: Since cigarette smoking in adolescence represents a crucial entry point in the progression to illicit drugs, risk factors for adolescent smoking have public health implications. The influence of mothers on children's smoking appears to be greater than that of fathers. To explain the selective influence of mothers, we examined the consequences of maternal smoking during pregnancy in two longitudinal samples.
Methods: Analyses were conducted on follow-up interview data from two dyadic samples of mothers and firstborn adolescents for whom data on maternal smoking during and after pregnancy were available (192 mother-child pairs originating from New York State and 797 dyads from a national sample).
Results: In both samples, maternal smoking during pregnancy, when postnatal smoking was controlled, selectively increased the probability that female children would smoke and would persist in smoking (adjusted odds ratios of about 4).
Conclusions: The findings suggest that nicotine or other substances released by maternal smoking can affect the fetus, perhaps through the nicotinic input to the dopaminergic motivational system, so as to predispose the brain in a critical period of its development to the subsequent addictive influence of nicotine consumed more than a decade later in life.