Heavy smoking link to cot deaths

Smoking by the mother during and after pregnancy increases the risk of cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Research on SIDS deaths in Southern California discovered that the babies were between 1.8 and five times as likely to have a mot

Infants exposed to between one and 10 cigarettes a day were 2.4 times more likely to have a cot death, and this factor jumped to 22.7 times in infants exposed to over 20 cigarettes a day.

Breastfeeding reduced the likelihood of having a SIDS infant for nonsmokers, but not for smokers.

Fathers who smoked did not always have the same effect, but could still increase the risk by 3.9 times (JAMA, March 8, 1995).

Smoking during pregnancy also affected the blood pressure rates of the babies. A study of 618 premature babies found that their systolic blood pressure was affected as late as eight years after their birth if the mother smoked during the pregnancy (Archives of Disease in Childhood 1995;72: 120-4).

The rate of SIDS in Tasmania has halved, and is mainly because babies are now being put to sleep on their backs, researchers believe.

The findings support British research, which has discovered that the SIDS rate has dropped dramatically since 1992 when the "Back to Sleep" campaign was launched (JAMA, March 8, 1995).