From San Diego, at the Experimental Biology 2003 meeting
Babies whose moms smoke during pregnancy are five times as likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than are nonsmokers' infants, notes Ralph E. Fregosi of Arizona State University in Tucson. In studies with rodents, he and Zili Luo have now identified a possible explanation: Nicotine exposure in the womb may slow or even stop the firing of respiratory nerves that trigger breaths.
Earlier studies linked nicotine to SIDS (SN: 9/14/02, p. 163: Available to subscribers at Smoking Gun? Mouse tests link nicotine to crib death). To explore what the stimulant might be doing, the researchers implanted tiny pumps under the skin of female rats on the third day of their 3-week pregnancies. The pumps delivered either saline or nicotine–the latter, in amounts that yielded blood concentrations comparable to those in people who smoke two packs of cigarettes per day.