New study shows the harm of smoking during pregnancy

Mothers-to-be who continue to smoke during pregnancy are severely increasing the chance of their baby being born with facial deformities, new research has revealed.

A report from the Office of the General Surgeon1 in the US suggests smoking during pregnancy gives women a one in two chance of having a baby with a failure of the upper lip or the palate that did not properly develop during the foetus’ development.

Latest statistics from Health & Social Care Information Centre2 reveal more than one in ten (12.7%) pregnant women are smokers at delivery. Given there were 694,241 births in England in the last year3, more than 54,500 babies could be at risk from a facial deformity.

Smoking during pregnancy has previously been linked to a number of health conditions, including heart defects, weight and size issues as well as lung conditions while tobacco use is also the leading cause of mouth cancer.

Ditch the habit

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes the research only adds to the calls for people to quit smoking. He said: ‘There is a wealth of evidence to suggest smoking during pregnancy achieves nothing but putting your baby in harm’s way. When you consider there are thousands of hazardous chemicals in a single cigarette, regularly smoking poses all sorts of risks.

‘Any amount of cigarette smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of having a child with health problems. Cigarettes aren’t an easy thing to give up. Research has shown this. However, if cigarettes expose unborn babies to harmful chemicals caused by smoking, it is something pregnant women must ditch immediately.

‘Smoking cessation services needed to be targeted at women from poorer backgrounds who are more likely to smoke. Young boys as well as girls also need to be told about the risks of smoking, particularly during pregnancy, considering the UK still has a very high teenage pregnancy rate.

‘If we are educating people on the risks posed by smoking, this could help to reduce the growing number of mouth cancer cases too. Tobacco use is the leading cause of the disease, and education remains the key. Latest figures show that it claims more lives than road traffic accidents do, so pregnant women are not only placing their baby’s health at risk – they are endangering their own.’


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking-50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

2. Health & Social Care Information Centre (2013), Statistics on women’s smoking status at time of delivery: England, Quarter 4, 2012/13.

3. Office for National Statistics (2013), Births in England and Wales 2012.

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