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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8(3), 875-898; doi:10.3390/ijerph8030875
Article

Life-long Programming Implications of Exposure to Tobacco Smoking and Nicotine Before and Soon After Birth: Evidence for Altered Lung Development

1
 and
2,*
1 Department of Medical Biosciences, University of the Western Cape, Bellville 7535, South Africa 2 Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 February 2011 / Revised: 28 February 2011 / Accepted: 4 March 2011 / Published: 16 March 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tobacco Smoking: Public Health, Science and Policy)
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Abstract

Tobacco smoking during pregnancy remains common, especially in indigenous communities, and likely contributes to respiratory illness in exposed offspring. It is now well established that components of tobacco smoke, notably nicotine, can affect multiple organs in the fetus and newborn, potentially with life-long consequences. Recent studies have shown that nicotine can permanently affect the developing lung such that its final structure and function are adversely affected; these changes can increase the risk of respiratory illness and accelerate the decline in lung function with age. In this review we discuss the impact of maternal smoking on the lungs and consider the evidence that smoking can have life-long, programming consequences for exposed offspring. Exposure to maternal tobacco smoking and nicotine intake during pregnancy and lactation changes the genetic program that controls the development and aging of the lungs of the offspring. Changes in the conducting airways and alveoli reduce lung function in exposed offspring, rendering the lungs more susceptible to obstructive lung disease and accelerating lung aging. Although it is generally accepted that prevention of maternal smoking during pregnancy and lactation is essential, current knowledge of the effects of nicotine on lung development does not support the use of nicotine replacement therapy in this group.
Keywords: lung structure; lung function; nicotine; metabolism; alveoli; conducting airways lung structure; lung function; nicotine; metabolism; alveoli; conducting airways
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Maritz, G.S.; Harding, R. Life-long Programming Implications of Exposure to Tobacco Smoking and Nicotine Before and Soon After Birth: Evidence for Altered Lung Development. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2011, 8, 875-898.

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