Pregnancy is a vulnerable time for both mother and baby — new research shows that even just smoking 10 cigarettes during pregnancy can harm the health of the unborn child. Specifically, the study found that teenagers who were born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy (after controlling for other substance use) displayed worse executive function than those who were not, particularly with respect to behavior regulation. It only took 10 cigarettes to see these results.

Tobacco use is both legal and common among adult females, and for many, this use continues during pregnancy. Without much needed access to smoking cessation programs and other resources, it can be very difficult for these women to quit.

Smoking during pregnancy has already been shown to impact preterm birth rates, birth weight, and some behavioral functioning after birth. This present study extends that knowledge into behavioral functioning later in life.

As a whole, the Boston University School of Medicine study simply provides more evidence that we must improve access to services and education around pregnancy and tobacco use to help mitigate these negative outcomes.

The full study was published on June 1st and can be found in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Key Points:

  • 1According to a previous study, smoking 10 or more cigarettes during pregnancy can cause premature and smaller babies.
  • 2It is estimated that 8% of pregnant women smoke, hence the importance of conducting a campaign to promote the effects of smoking on unborn babies.
  • 3New studies reveal that even lack of concentration, memory, problem solving, planning in adolescents can be related to smoking during gestation.


Studies have long shown that babies born to smokers are likely to be premature, small and have behavior problems early on.

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