Father smokingIf a father smokes prior to conception, it could raise the risk of asthma in the children, a new report presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich revealed.

The study is the first of its kind in humans to analyse the link between the father’s smoking habits before conception and a child’s asthma. The findings add to growing evidence from animal studies that suggest that the father’s exposures before parenthood can harm his offspring.

The study analysed the smoking habits of more than 13,000 men and women via a questionnaire. The researchers then analysed the link in both mothers and fathers and looked at the number of years a person had smoked prior to conception, the incidence of asthma in children and whether the parent had quit before the baby was conceived.

The results showed that non-allergic asthma (without hayfever) was significantly more common in children with a father who smoked prior to conception. This risk of asthma increased if a father smoked before the age of 15 and this risk grew with the duration of smoking. The researchers observed no link between the mother’s smoking prior to conception and a child’s asthma.

Dr Cecilie Svanes, from the University of Bergen, Norway, said: “This study is important as it is the first study looking at how a father’s smoking habit pre-conception can affect the respiratory health of his children. Given these results, we can presume that exposure to any type of air pollution, from occupational exposures to chemical exposures, could also have an effect. It is important for policymakers to focus on interventions targeting young men and warning them of the dangers of smoking and other exposures to their unborn children in the future.”