Evidence for an association between environmental tobacco smoke exposure and birthweight: a meta-analysis and new data

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 1999 Jan;13(1):35-57. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3016.1999.00150.x.


Because of the strong association of active smoking with fetal growth retardation, increasing interest has focused on whether there is also an association with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). We examined this issue in a retrospective study and by conducting a review of the literature and data pooling. In our study, nonsmoking women with singleton livebirths born in 1986-87 (n = 992) provided information on exposure to ETS for 1 h or more per day and paternal smoking. The risk of low birthweight (LBW, < 2500 g) was not increased in infants of ETS-exposed women, but there was a somewhat increased risk for LBW at term (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.6, 4.8) and small-for-gestational-age (< 10th percentile of weight; OR = 1.4, 95% CI = 0.8, 2.5). These results were in the range of 16 other studies in the literature that had odds ratios from 1.0 to 2.2. A weighted average of the results of all studies on LBW at term or small-for-gestational-age yielded a pooled estimate of 1.2 [95% CI = 1.1, 1.3] in nonsmoking women. The pooled estimate of mean birthweight indicated a decrement of 28 g with ETS exposure of nonsmoking women [95% CI = -41, -16], with a greater decrement (about 40 g) seen among more homogeneous studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight / physiology*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution