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Smoking link to 'criminal' children

Children whose mothers smoke heavily during pregnancy are more likely to become career criminals, research suggests.

Heavy smoking is linked to offending regardless of whether the child was brought up in socially deprived circumstances, a study found.

Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health in the US found an increased risk for women who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day during pregnancy.

Their study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, enrolled more than 3,700 mothers between 1959 and 1966 and asked about their smoking habits during pregnancy.

In 1999/2000, when their children were aged at least 33, criminal record checks were carried out on the offspring.

The results showed that those children whose mothers smoked heavily were 31% more likely to have been arrested as those whose mothers never smoked, and were more likely to be repeat criminal offenders.

The findings were the same for both men and women.

Professor James Walker, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said: "Smoking harms the pregnant woman and the developing foetus.

"The risks include low birthweight, pre-term birth and stillbirth."

He added: "We need to do what we can to inform women of the risks of smoking to them and their babies. We must provide them with the support they need to kick the habit. Women who find it difficult to quit smoking when pregnant should be encouraged to reduce their smoking at the very least."

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