Childhood exposure to secondhand smoke raises risk for COPD among smoking adults

This is totally not Shutterstock.

An interesting study about the longterm effects of secondhand smoke on children suggests that children exposed to cigarette smoking from their mothers are more likely to develop COPD as adults if they end up smoking themselves.

In this survey from Australia, it was found that smokers were nearly three times as likely to develop COPD if they were exposed to their mother’s secondhand smoke as a child … if their mother smoked a pack a day or more.


On this article from MedPage Today:

“While the potential as a COPD risk factor for adult offspring has not been comprehensively documented, our study suggests that the early life exposure to maternal smoking may increase an individual’s susceptibility to the harms of personal smoking in later life,” the researchers wrote. “Identifying those most at risk might provide an opportunity for a more individualized approach to the prevention of COPD.”

“Maternal smoking adversely affects the ventilatory function of offspring, including neonates, infants, children and adolescents,” they wrote. “The idea that maternal smoking exposure might predispose to COPD in later life appears largely based on these pediatric studies, and of the few adult studies, only one examined pre-bronchodilator (BD) spirometry as a categorical outcome.”

“This study provides further evidence for mother’s smoking to influence the lung function in children when measured in middle-age,” she noted, adding that they also reinforce public health messages warning pregnant women and mothers with children in the home not to smoke.


This study just talks about smoking by mothers. It doesn’t discuss both parents. My parents smoked six packs a day between them (no exaggeration, they really did), and I worry to this day about the longterm damage done to my lungs the first 15 years of my life. However, I’ve never smoked, so I’m hoping my personal risk of developing COPD is pretty minimal.

It just shows to me how the damage done by cigarette smoking gets passed down from one generation to another, both by setting an example to smoke and by all the physical, longterm damage done to kids’ bodies. This has been going on for generation after generation for over 100 years.

This post isn’t intended to spit on smokers. I know people didn’t know better 30 or 40 years ago. At least today, the vast majority of smokers know better than to smoke around their kids.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone smoking around kids in the past five years.

The researchers state more study needs to be done (I hope any further study also look at the smoking by both parents).