Which is worse in pregnancy, snuff or cigarettes?

Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:44am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Babies born to snuff-using mothers were more likely to have breathing problems than those whose mothers smoked while pregnant, according to a Swedish study.

Snuff -- ground tobacco that is high in nicotine but doesn't generate the same additional chemicals as cigarette smoke because it's not burned -- is generally assumed to be safer than cigarettes, said lead researcher Anna Gunnerbeck, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

That's still the case for many people, but it's not a good option for pregnant woman, she added.

"(It) may have a little bit different effect than smoking, because smoking has the combustion products, but it's still not safe during pregnancy," Gunnerbeck told Reuters Health.

It's possible the same may apply to nicotine gum and patches, which some doctors recommend to women trying to stop smoking during pregnancy, the researchers wrote in Pediatrics.

Gunnerbeck and her colleagues got their data from records of about 610,000 babies born in Sweden between 1999 and 2006. They compared information gathered from mothers when they were a few months pregnant -- including about snuff and cigarette use -- with babies' hospital records.

Specifically, they were looking for a diagnosis of "apnea," which occurs when a newborn stops breathing, sometimes accompanied by an irregular heartbeat.

One or two in every 1,000 babies born to mothers who didn't use snuff or cigarettes developed apnea. For babies whose mothers lit up during pregnancy, that risk increased by about 50 percent.

And for those whose mothers used snuff, the rate was more than twice as high as in babies born to mothers who didn't use any kind of tobacco.   Continued...

<p>A woman and her dog walk along the beach in this file photo. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen</p>