Aaron Elliott and T.J.
than 22 million American women smoke and approximately 25%
of these women continue to smoke during pregnancy (Lambers
and Clark 1996). Cigarette smoke has long been associated
with increased health risks to the unborn baby. It contains
thousands of different chemicals that could be harmful to
various processes of development. One of the most hazardous
chemicals in cigarettes is nicotine. Nicotine, the chief
alkaloid in tobacco, is known to have adverse effects on
body development. Nicotine exposure is known to cause
premature birth, growth restriction, premature rupture of
membranes, preterm labor, spontaneous abortion, and an
increase in heart rate (Lambers and Clark 1996). Nicotine is
also known to impair the absorption of calcium, vitamin C
and other vitamins and minerals required by a developing
fetus (Nash and Persaud 1989). Despite these known risks
many pregnant women continue to smoke, exposing the unborn
baby to nicotine.
smokers breath in smoke they draw nicotine into their lungs.
The nicotine is then able to enter the bloodstream and other
parts of the body. If a woman is pregnant, the nicotine is
able to reach the fetus by crossing the placenta and
circulating into the baby's blood. Due to the reduction of
oxygen and nutrients supplying the fetal tissues, the
effects of nicotine can be seen in every trimester from
spontaneous abortions in the first trimester to premature
delivery, malformations and decreased birth weight in the
third (Blair et al. 1996). Although the effects of nicotine
are not the same for every organism, most exhibit some
retardation of embryonic growth when exposed.