Want Another Reason Not to Smoke? Think About Your Grandchildren

Want Another Reason Not to Smoke? Think About Your Grandchildren

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire” is a phrase that’s been around for a long time; it means that if it looks like there’s something wrong, then there probably is. So, picture a pregnant woman smoking. What’s wrong with this picture? Maybe more than you think—she’s putting her daughter’s daughter at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A study from the University of Bristol has shown some pretty conclusive epidemiological evidence that grandmothers who smoked while they were pregnant saw greatly increased rates of ASD in their granddaughters.

As strange as that sounds, listen to this: The university researchers looked at 14,500 participants of the Children of the 90s Study and found that if a girl’s maternal grandmother smoked during pregnancy, she was 67 percent more likely to display behaviors linked to autism, such as poor communication skills and repetitive behaviors, and she had a 53 percent increased risk of landing squarely on the spectrum. Paternal grandmothers smoking during pregnancy showed no associations.

How could this happen? The researchers offered two possible explanations. DNA damage caused by smoking is transmitted to the grandchildren, or it alters the grandchildren’s gene-moderated response to an environmental pollutant they happen to encounter. Something like a hormone disruptor in plastics (BPA) or a pesticide (glyphosate used on GMO crops) or a combination of environmental pollutants. And that cascade leads to ASD problems.

Bottom line. Male, female, young, old, don’t smoke—anything. Once researchers go back another generation, they might find the original problem was great-grandpa smoking.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

More On

Common Smoking Triggers and How to Avoid Them

article

Common Smoking Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Many people think smoking is a long-term stress reliever, but it’s not. Smoking only relieves the stress of nicotine withdrawal between cigarettes. Ea...
Not Ready to Quit Smoking? Try These Lifestyle Changes Instead

slideshow

Not Ready to Quit Smoking? Try These Lifestyle Changes Instead
Healthy eating and exercise can make it easier to quit when you are finally ready. Many people want to quit smoking but aren’t sure if they can comple...
2 New FDA Warnings on Menthol Cigarettes and Diabetes Drugs

video

2 New FDA Warnings on Menthol Cigarettes and Diabetes Drugs
The FDA warns that menthol cigarettes are more addictive and that there are over-the-counter medications for diabetes that are harmful. In this video,...
How to Be Tobacco-Free

video

How to Be Tobacco-Free
Congratulations! You’re taking your first steps toward a tobacco-free life. In this video, you’ll learn about the benefits of quitting and get tools t...