Rates of prenatal nicotine exposure may be higher than previously reported, according to research published in the Journal of Perinatology.

Jim Greenberg, MD, director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s, and colleagues conducted a retrospective, single-center, cohort analysis for 18 months. The researchers compared self-reported smoking status from vital birth records to laboratory results of maternal urine analysis.

High-level nicotine exposure was detected in 16.5% of study participants (n=708); low-level exposure was detected in an additional 7.5%. However, 8.6% of those participants admitted to using cigarettes, suggesting that currently existing tools being used to estimate nicotine use do not accurately capture all incidences and means of exposure.

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“Improved measurement tactics are critically needed to capture late pregnancy primary and passive nicotine exposure from all potential sources,” said Dr Greenberg. “This is extremely important new information for us as we work to better understand risk factors for preterm birth”

“Studies show that smoking increases the risk of preterm birth by over 25%,” said Todd Portune, chair of Cradle Cincinnati. “It is also a proven risk factor for SIDS and for birth defects. All 3 of the leading causes of infant death are negatively affected by tobacco use.”


  1. Hall ES, Wexelblatt SL, Greenberg JM. Self-reported and laboratory evaluation of late pregnancy nicotine exposure and drugs of abuse. J Perinatol. 2016; In press.