Smoking continues to have a large presence in the United States. Those who smoke are not the only ones affected by the habit, as secondhand smoke can be breathed in by those close to a smoker. The problems associated with secondhand smoke exposure are many. Children are particularly vulnerable, especially those still in the prenatal stage. Prenatal children exposed to secondhand smoke experience effects that are shared with postnatal children exposed to the same toxins, though the effects are more severe. There are also effects that are unique to prenatal secondhand smoke exposure. The effects of prenatal secondhand smoke exposure can appear early in life or may not appear until adult life. Prenatal secondhand smoke exposure can result in low birth weight, high body-mass index (BMI), abnormal lung function, and cardiovascular detriments. Low birth weight can be caused by lowered utero-placental flow, increased carboxyhemoglobin, and altered protein metabolism and enzyme activity. High BMI can result from intrauterine growth restriction and altered response to adrenergic stimuli. Structural changes as a result of nicotine exposure can alter lung function. Finally, nicotine can also elicit cardiovascular detriments in the form of increased risk of injury from ischemia or reperfusion and increased vascular contractions.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2014


Michael Ward

Mentor Department Affiliation


Access Options

Restricted Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level




Smoking Trend.gif (62 kB)
A chart picturing the decline in smoking in the U.S.

BMI Chart.gif (59 kB)
An example of a growth chart for boys