The data shows that maternal smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for the development of early onset diabetes in offspring. Independently, cigarette smoking as a young adult can also increase the risk of subsequent diabetes. Given the huge economic impact of diabetes, it's clear that governments must do more to deter people from smoking.
A new study has been published in the British Medical Journal, examining the effects of smoking during pregnancy and the incidence of diabetes in a British longitudinal birth cohort.
The new study's Swedish authors used data from the British Perinatal Mortality Survey of about 17,000 births from 1958. Its findings correlated to about a third greater risk of developing obesity or diabetes for offspring whose mothers smoke during pregnancy. The authors suggest that exposure in the womb to smoking results in life-long metabolic dysfunction, possibly owing to fetal malnutrition or toxicity.
This new finding adds obesity and diabetes to the existing long list of adverse effects that maternal smoking has on offspring's health and development. Prenatal tobacco exposure has been linked to a higher risk of miscarriage, low-birth weight, developing asthma and negative behavior in toddlers.
In adults, smoking is also known to exacerbate the cardiovascular side effects associated with diabetes. So far, this information has not been effectively communicated either to people with diabetes or to health care professionals. Smoking is also believed to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.
Yet despite the increasing awareness of known risks of smoking, the prevalence of smoking among women in the developed world has only seen a modest decline - indeed, the prevalence of smoking among teenage girls has actually increased. The new study further highlights the need to increase awareness of the devastating impact of smoking on women's health and the indirect effects of this habit. The economic impact of diabetes is already staggering, with direct costs amounting to approximately $50 billion in the US alone.