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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Smoking and ADHD

01/22/2002

Question:

What is the data on the relationship between smoking and the frequency of ADHD in infants/children born to these women?

Answer:

Research strongly suggests that the greater the number of medical conditions a woman has prior to or during pregnancy, the more likely her child will be diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder. In addition, if the mother experienced moderate emotional stress or smoked cigarettes during pregnancy the child is more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. In fact, a wide variety of cognitive, achievement and behavioral deficits such as ADD have been identified in the children of women smoking during pregnancy. However, one important question is, is ADD associated with maternal smoking or caused by maternal smoking. Whether these findings are a result of other genetic, environmental and/or social factors has not been determined. This may suggest that adverse effects on childhood behavioral adjustment should be added to the growing list of adverse consequences of parental smoking for childhood health and well-being. However it also may suggest yet more evidence for the genetic component of ADD; many persons (including mothers-to-be) with ADD appear to use cigarettes to calm hyperactivity, and may find that their impulsivity is associated with further difficulty with stopping cigarette use even during pregnancy.

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Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati