While the health risks associated with adult cigarette smoking have been well described, effects of nicotine exposure during periods of developmental vulnerability are often overlooked. Using MEDLINE and PubMed literature searches, books, reports and expert opinion, a transdisciplinary group of scientists reviewed human and animal research on the health effects of exposure to nicotine during pregnancy and adolescence. A synthesis of this research supports that nicotine contributes critically to adverse effects of gestational tobacco exposure, including reduced pulmonary function, auditory processing defects, impaired infant cardiorespiratory function, and may contribute to cognitive and behavioral deficits in later life. Nicotine exposure during adolescence is associated with deficits in working memory, attention, and auditory processing, as well as increased impulsivity and anxiety. Finally, recent animal studies suggest that nicotine has a priming effect that increases addiction liability for other drugs. The evidence that nicotine adversely affects fetal and adolescent development is sufficient to warrant public health measures to protect pregnant women, children, and adolescents from nicotine exposure.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience