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Prenatal Smoking Affects Heart Development in Children


Does smoking during pregnancy alter the vascular structure of children at 5 years of age?  The study, "Parental Smoking and Vascular Damage in Their Five-Year-Old Children," in the January 2012 Pediatrics examined 259 children of mothers, of whom 6 percent smoked during pregnancy. At 5 years of age, these children displayed thickening and stiffening of the carotid and artery walls. Thickening of these walls is an indicator of cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood. The study used data from the WHISTLER-Cardio study and was conducted through parental surveys. Ultrasound scans of the vascular structure were performed on the children of participating parents. Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy had carotid artery walls that were 18.8 µm thicker than children of non-smoking mothers. The authors suggest that smoking by mothers during pregnancy leads to vascular damage in their children.

Editor's Note: This issue of Pediatrics includes the study, "Parental Smoking Cessation to Protect Young Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis," and a commentary, "Children and Secondhand Smoke: Clear Evidence for Action."

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit