Babies exposed to cigarette smoke are at increased risk for developing childhood respiratory diseases such as asthma, according to a new study.
Researchers exposed smooth muscle cells from the airways of deceased 18- to 20-week human fetuses to various levels of cigarette smoke. The cells exposed to cigarette smoke showed changes that were similar to the effects of inflammation in asthma.
Even low levels of cigarette smoke caused these changes, while higher levels caused cell death. These changes narrow the airway and make it more difficult for a baby to breathe. The effects would be especially harmful in premature babies, according to the study, which is scheduled for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).