Scientists studied the incidence of apnea, a temporary suspension of breathing, among 610,000 Swedish infants born between 1999 and 2006.
The study revealed that the risk of apnea is 50 percent higher for children of smoking mothers than from children of mothers who neither smoked nor used snuff during pregnancy.
However, in stark contrast, the risk is twice as large for children whose mothers use the smokeless oral tobacco product while pregnant.
Research director Anna Gunnerberck with the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm told the Reutuers news agency, that snuff, which is often considered by many to be less harmful than cigarettes during pregnancy, is not a good option when considering the health of the unborn child.
”It may have a slightly different effect than smoking but it is still not safe during pregnancy,” she said.
Researchers wrote that it is likely that nicotine patches and nicotine gum also increase the risk of apnea in the child and that these products should not be considered an alternative to smoking for expectant mothers.
Apnea in infants can lead to sleep disturbances and make them more vulnerable to infection.
Although it’s perfectly normal for everyone to experience occasional pauses in breathing, this unexplained cessation of breathing can become a problem when breathing stops for 20 seconds or longer.
The study is published in the Pediatrics journal.