NEW YORK – A father’s smoking could damage his unborn child’s health – even he quits years before the birth, a new study has revealed.
Norwegian researchers found a baby had a greater risk of asthma if their father smoked before they were conceived.
The findings add to growing evidence which suggests that poor health can be recorded in a father’s sperm or a mother’s eggs.
Australian research published earlier this year found that drinking, smoking or eating badly could put a baby’s health at risk – years before it is conceived.
Obesity or other problems caused by lifestyle can then be passed on to the next generation – making a baby ‘pre-programmed’ for a life of poor health.
The Australian scientists say they wanted to re-iterate that ‘parenting starts before conception.’
The new research on smoking, presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich, is the first study in humans to analyse the link between a father’s smoking habits before conception and a child’s asthma.
The study analysed the smoking habits of over 13,000 men and women via a questionnaire.
The researchers examined the link in both mothers and fathers and looked at the number of years a person had smoked prior to conception, the incidence of asthma in children and whether the parent had quit before the baby was conceived.
The results showed that ‘non-allergic asthma’ – asthma without hayfever – was significantly more common in children with a father who smoked prior to conception.
This risk of asthma increased if a father smoked before the age of 15, and the longer the father smoked, the greater the risk of their baby developing asthma.
No link was found between the mother’s smoking before conception and a child’s asthma.
Dr Cecile Svanes, from the University of Bergen, Norway, said policymakers should warn men about how their lifestyle could affect their future children.
She said: ‘This study is important as it is the first study looking at how a father’s smoking habit pre-conception can affect the respiratory health of his children.
‘Given these results, we can presume that exposure to any type of air pollution, from occupational exposures to chemical exposures, could also have an effect.’
She added: ‘It is important for policymakers to focus on interventions targeting young men and warning them of the dangers of smoking and other exposures to their unborn children in the future.