If your grandmother smoked, you may be more likely to have asthma — even if your mother didn’t smoke. That’s the finding written by two Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute researchers just published in the March edition of the Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology. John S. Torday and Virender K. Rehan reported the results of Dr. Rehan’s rat studies, which involved exposing the pregnant rodents to nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes.
The “smoking” rats gave birth to litters that had a greater chance of developing asthma. However, what’s new is that when those rats grew up, even if they were not exposed to nicotine, their pups were also more likely to develop asthma.
According to his biography on the Harbor-UCLA Pediatrics website, Dr. Rehan, a professor of pediatrics, has published numerous studies on newborn baby lung health, including other studies on the link between smoking and asthma.
Previous studies have long shown that if your mother smoked, then you’re more likely to have asthma. For example, Dr. Erika von Mutius published a study in the The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology over a decade ago demonstrating that “exposure to tobacco smoke in utero significantly increases asthma risk.”
This well-established science is why OB/GYNs try to encourage mothers-to-be to give up smoking. And it’s easy to see why the baby’s developing lungs are affected by direct content in the womb with the nicotine in the mother’s cigarettes.
The claim that a grandmother’s smoking can affect a grandchild’s chances of developing asthma are a little more controversial, since they challenge some established opinions about genetic inheritance. Torday and Rehan believe that the nicotine actually changes the genetic material of the developing baby. Therefore, even if that baby doesn’t smoke, when she grows up, she can still pass on the susceptibility to asthma to her own child.
“Twelve percent of women in the USA continue to smoke during pregnancy, resulting in the birth of at least 400,000 smoke-exposed infants yearly in the USA alone,” Torday and Rehan wrote. If their new “smoking grandmother” study holds up, it means that women who smoke when expecting may be harming not just their own children but future generations.