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expert reaction to new research on heavy smoking during pregnancy and repeat offending

Scientists comment on work that links smoking during pregnancy to criminal behaviour in their children.


Professor Kate Pickett, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, said:

“This study adds to a substantial body of evidence linking smoking in pregnancy to difficult temperament in infants, behaviour problems in children, and antisocial behaviour in adult offspring. These relationships seem to be robust, and can be seen even after accounting for many differences between women who smoke and those who manage to quit, or never smoke in pregnancy. However, we also know that smoking in pregnancy is related to multiple and complex challenges faced by women in their own lives, in their family circumstances and in the neighbourhoods in which they raise their families. Women need interventions and encouragement to help them quit smoking, but they also need joined-up services and support to help them be the best parents they can.”


Dr Ron Gray, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, said:

“Whether or not mothers’ smoking during pregnancy causes criminal offending in their children – and this well conducted study strongly suggests that it might – there is abundant evidence that it causes stillbirth, low birth weight and infant death, as well as damaging the mothers’ own health: all good reasons to avoid it!”


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