Eyewitness News
Local News
Pinpoint Weather
Eyewitness Sports
Call For Action
What's On WPRI
What's On Fox
Eyewitness Email
Station Info

 June 13, 2003
Father's Day
House & Home
Yellow Pages
Smoking as Harmful as Drugs to Fetus
Email to a Friend
Printer Friendly Version

By K.L. Capozza, HealthScoutNews Reporter

TUESDAY, June 3 (HealthScoutNews) -- In a discovery that could change the way health officials view smoking during pregnancy, Brown University researchers show nicotine has the same impact on fetuses as cocaine and heroin.

Babies exposed to nicotine during pregnancy were more excitable and tense, the researchers say, and they showed signs of central nervous system and gastrointestinal stress.

The report, published in the June issue of Pediatrics, suggests the infants experienced "neonatal withdrawal" from nicotine, although the finding was not conclusive.

"Because we evaluated the babies at one to two days following birth, we don't know if it's actually withdrawal we're seeing or the effects of [the mother's] cigarette smoking," says study author Karen L. Law, a third-year medical student at Brown.

What's clear is that nicotine may have the same toxic effect as illegal drugs, Law adds. Ideally, the finding might motivate the 18 percent of pregnant women who smoke to quit.

The study compared the behaviors of 27 nicotine-exposed newborns and 29 unexposed newborns 48 hours after birth. The researchers measured the nicotine intake of mothers by asking them how many cigarettes they smoked per day and then verifying their answers by measuring a biological marker of nicotine called cotinine, which is found in saliva.

They found that a mother's cigarette intake correlated with an increase in symptom severity in her newborn.

"The present study is the first to establish that the predictions from animal models are indeed true -- behavioral abnormalities akin to those associated with illicit drugs used during pregnancy, are equally, or perhaps even more, detectable in the offspring of women who smoke during pregnancy," says Theodore Slotkin, a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center.

"This is an important, even essential, contribution to the field, especially as many of the women in the study were smoking fairly low numbers of cigarettes," he adds.

The results also suggest there may be legal grounds for removing children from mothers who smoke during pregnancy, say the researchers.

Given that nicotine is showing the same effects as an illegal substance for which protective services will remove babies from their mothers, policy makers ought to reconsider how they evaluate a fit mother, writes senior study author Barry Lester, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown.

"To have these results in which these nicotine-exposed babies have a similar profile as cocaine-addicted infants makes us take a step back and ask what's appropriate behavior during pregnancy. Somehow smoking is still acceptable," Law says. "We need to take a look at why one substance over another is not controlled during pregnancy."

The study did not look at the long-term impact of nicotine exposure during pregnancy, but the researchers say previous studies suggest the impact of smoking on newborns can be mediated if the family provides appropriate attention and care throughout childhood.

More information

For more on the dangers of smoking, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and here are the reasons why expectant moms should quit smoking.

SOURCES: Theodore Slotkin, M.D., professor, pharmacology, psychiatry and neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; Barry Lester, Ph.D., professor, psychiatry and human behavior, Brown University Medical School, Providence, R.I.; Karen L. Law, third-year medical student, Brown University, Providence, R.I.; June 2003 Pediatrics

Copyright � 2003 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

Health News | Health Encyclopedia | Quizzes and Tools | Women's Health | Men's Health | Children's Health | Seniors' Health | Diet, Fitness and Self Image | Sex and Relationships
Health Encyclopedia: Sex and Relationships
Genital Herpes
Condyloma (Genital Warts)
Human Papilloma Virus
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Genital Warts
Birth Control
Sex and Relationships News more» 
Smokers Beware!
Nicotine has the same impact on the fetus as cocaine and heroin. 
Black Babies Born in Fall Weigh Less
Few Doctors Counsel Pregnant Women on Smoking
New Options for 'Morning After' Pill
House to Vote on Partial Birth Abortion Ban
At Risk for Diabetes Before Work
Nursing Helps Undo Smoking's Damage to Baby
Menorrhagia: When Your Time of the Month is Too Much
Herb May Help Heal Herpes
Gene Mutation Helps Some With HIV

Pinpoint Doppler Radar

What's new on EyewitnessNewstv.com
Find out what's new and useful on our new website!
Childhood Asthma
Indoor pools could be the culprit!
Focus on Health
- News
- Encyclopedia
- Quizzes & Tools 

Summer Date Ideas
High on fun, low on cost.
Quick Job Search
Search by keyword, locale, category...
Father's Day is June 15th!
Be ready with gift ideas, coupons, recipes...
Send questions and comments about this website to the .
All content © Copyright 2003, WorldNow, WPRI, WNAC and Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.