BACKGROUND A systematic quantitative review was conducted of the evidence relating parental smoking to spirometric indices in children.
METHODS An electronic search of the Embase and Medline databases was completed in April 1997 and identified 692 articles from which we included four studies in neonates, 42 cross-sectional studies in school aged children (22 were included in a meta-analysis), and six longitudinal studies of lung function development.
RESULTS In a pooled analyses of 21 surveys of school aged children the percentage reduction in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) in children exposed to parental smoking compared with those not exposed was 1.4% (95% CI 1.0 to 1.9). Effects were greater on mid expiratory flow rates (5.0% reduction, 95% CI 3.3 to 6.6) and end expiratory flow rates (4.3% reduction, 95% CI 3.1 to 5.5). Adjustment for potential confounding variables had little effect on the estimates. A number of studies reported clear evidence of exposure response. Where exposure was explicitly identified it was usually maternal smoking. Two studies in neonates have reported effects of prenatal exposure to maternal smoking. Of five cross sectional studies that compared effects of perinatal exposure (retrospectively assessed) with current exposure to maternal smoking in later childhood, the three largest concluded that the major effect was in utero or neonatal exposure. Longitudinal studies suggest a small effect of current exposure on growth in lung function, but with some heterogeneity between studies.
CONCLUSIONS Maternal smoking is associated with small but statistically significant deficits in FEV1 and other spirometric indices in school aged children. This is almost certainly a causal relationship. Much of the effect may be due to maternal smoking during pregnancy.
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