An Italian study adds to the already substantial evidence of the hazards of tobacco smoke exposure in infants. The study, published in the journal BMC Respiratory Research, showed that maternal smoking, as well as passive smoke exposure during pregnancy, led to an increased risk of hospitalization for bronchiolitis in infants and babies during their first year of life.
The research team, led by Marcello Lanari at Imola Hospital, Italy, followed 2,210 newborns in their first year of life. The study included all infants born in the 33rd week of gestation or older. The team, collaborating with the University of Bologna, analyzed maternal smoking habits and tobacco smoke exposure both during pregnancy and following birth. Researchers also analyzed factors such as living conditions, whether smoke exposure was mainly indoors or outdoors, if children were born during the respiratory epidemic season, as well as hospitalizations for bronchiolitis during the infants’ first year of life.
The results showed that prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke, either from a mother smoking more than 15 cigarettes a day or through maternal passive exposure, increased the risk of hospitalization for bronchiolitis. In total, 5.4 percent of the infants were hospitalized. Adjusting the statistical analysis for other factors that might impact the results, the team found a risk of 2.4-fold risk if the mother smoked and a 1.8-fold risk if she was exposed to passive smoking.
Although a slightly increased risk of hospitalization was observed in infants also exposed to smoke after birth, adjustment of the analysis for potential influential factors removed the association. The authors, however, only analyzed if smoking was present and if it occurred inside or outside after the baby was born. The study did not report details such as whether it was the mother or the father who smoked and the extent of smoking, which might explain a lack of association.
The study, “Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure increases hospitalizations for bronchiolitis in infants,“ emphasized the importance of reducing tobacco smoke exposure in pregnant mothers to secure the respiratory health of newborns. The authors argued that since women might be more inclined to quit smoking during pregnancy, efforts to aid smoking cessation in this group might be a fruitful approach to improving the respiratory health of both mothers and infants.