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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2011 Mar;72(2):199-209.

Maternal smoking during pregnancy and risk of alcohol use disorders among adult offspring.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Queens College, The City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11367, USA.



The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between maternal smoking during pregnancy (MSP) and lifetime risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and to explore possible mechanisms through which MSP may be related to neurobehavioral conditions during infancy and childhood, which could, in turn, lead to increased risk for AUD.


A sample of 1,625 individuals was followed from pregnancy for more than 40 years. Capitalizing on the long follow-up time, we used survival analysis to examine lifetime risks of AUD (diagnosed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) in relation to levels of MSP (none, <20 cigarettes/day, and ≥20 cigarettes/day). We then used structural equation modeling to test hypotheses regarding potential mechanisms, including lower birth weight, neurological abnormalities, poorer academic functioning, and behavioral dysregulation.


Relative to unexposed offspring, offspring of mothers who smoked 20 cigarettes per day or more exhibited greater risks for AUD (hazard ratio = 1.31, 95% CI [1.08, 1.59]). However, no differences were observed among offspring exposed to fewer than 20 cigarettes per day. In structural equation models, MSP was associated with neurobehavioral problems during infancy and childhood, which, in turn, were associated with an increased risk for adult AUD.


MSP was associated with an increased lifetime risk for AUD. Adverse consequences were evident from birth to adulthood. A two-pronged remedial intervention targeted at both the mother (to reduce smoking during pregnancy) and child (to improve academic functioning) may reduce the risk for subsequent AUD.

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