Medical Reading

Teen Smokers Exposed To Nicotine In The Womb Have Problems Focusing

April 28, 2017

Teen smokers exposed to nicotine in the womb have trouble looking at or listening to something attentively, Yale School of Medicine researcher and associate professor of psychiatry, Leslie Jacobsen, reports in Neuropsychopharmacology.

The study also found a difference between girls and boys who have a smoking and/or nicotine exposure history. The girls had problems in both looking and listening during the word recognition exercises. The boys had more problems listening while doing the exercises.

"This suggests that brain regions involved in auditory attention may be more vulnerable to nicotine in boys," Jacobsen said. "These gender-speficic effects may result from differences in hormonal control of nicotine's actions."

Teen girls and boys who do not smoke and who were not exposed to nicotine pre-natally performed most accurately. Individuals who smoke but whose mothers did not smoke, or those who do not smoke but whose mothers did smoke during pregnancy, performed somewhere between the two groups.

The American Lung Association reports that about 4.5 million U.S. adolescents smoke cigarettes.

"The Center for Disease Control reports that smoking during pregnancy is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants," Jacobsen said. "Prior to this study, very little research was available on the less dramatic effects of exposure to smoking, such as the impact on attention capacity."

Co-authors include Theodore Slotkin, W. Einer Menci, Stephen Frost, and Kenneth Pugh. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

(Published online March 21, 2007 DOI:10.1038/sj.npp.1301398)