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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Prevalence of maternal smoking and environmental tobacco smoke exposure during pregnancy and impact on birth weight: retrospective study using Millennium Cohort

Corinne Ward1*, Sarah Lewis1 and Tim Coleman2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

2 Division of Primary Care, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:81  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-81

Published: 16 May 2007



Meta-analyses of studies investigating the impact of maternal environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on birth weight have not produced robust findings. Although, ante natal ETS exposure probably reduces infant's birth weights, the scale of this exposure remains unknown. We conducted a large, cohort study to assess the impact of ETS exposure on birth weight whilst adjusting for the many factors known to influence this.


Retrospective study using interview data from parents of 18,297 children born in 2000/2001 and living in the UK 9 months afterwards (the Millennium Cohort Survey). Comparison of birth weight, sex and gestational age specific (SGA) z score, birth before 37 weeks and birth weight < 2.5 Kg (LBW) in infants born to women exposed to: i) no tobacco smoke, ii) ETS only and iii) maternal smoking whilst pregnant.


13% of UK infants were exposed to ETS and 36% to maternal smoking ante natally. Compared to no ante natal tobacco smoke exposure, domestic ETS lowered infants' adjusted mean birth weights by 36 g (95% CI, 5 g to 67 g) and this effect showed a dose-response relationship. ETS exposure also caused non-significant increases in the adjusted risks of Low Birth Weight (<2.5 Kg) [OR 1.23 (95% CI, 0.96 to 1.58) and premature birth [OR 1.21 (95% CI, 0.96 to 1.51)], whilst the impacts of maternal smoking were greater and statistically significant.


UK prevalences of domestic ETS exposure and maternal smoking in pregnancy remain high and ETS exposure lowers infants' birth weights.