Centre for International Health
research publication

No Smoking Day 2021 – protecting future generations

Professor Cecilie Svanes and Associate Professor Ane Johannessen from the Centre for International Health (CIH) recently published results showing how smoking in early puberty in boys may have negative consequences for their future generations of offspring.

No Smoking Day 2021

Main content

Continued analysis of the data gathered in the large international RHINESSA, RHINE and ECRHS studies has shown that the health of future generations depends on the actions and decisions made by young people today – long before they are parents – in particular for boys in early puberty and mothers / grandmothers both pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy.

New in the paper, “Prenatal and prepubertal exposures to tobacco smoke in men may cause lower lung function in future offspring: a three-generation study using a causal modelling approach”, recently published in the European Respiratory Journal, is the multi-generation effects of the potential damage on lung function. The work highlights the importance of putting greater focus on smoking in young people (defined as before 15 years of age). It also  suggests including the use of  moist oral tobacco (snus) and e-cigarette use.

No Smoking Day 2021

Svanes, one of two last authors on the study, suggested sharing these study results in honour of the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day 2021 – held always on 31 May. Check out the WHO website, where you can find 100 reasons to quit, benefits to quitting, and a quitting toolkit among many other things.

WHO states that “roughly 6 million people die from tobacco-related ailments every year, and that number is projected to rise to over 8 million by 2030.” This study underlines that the smokers not only jeopardise their own health, but also the health of their children and grandchildren.

Vulnerability windows

The pre-natal period, and, as this study demonstrated, the pre-puberty period are times of particular vulnerability for growing cells, particularly germ cells. The study states “Mechanistic research suggests that lifestyle and environmental factors impact respiratory health across generations by epigenetic changes transmitted through male germ cells,” and “that lifestyle-related exposures during these susceptibility periods influence the health of future generations.”

vulnerability windows
RHINESSA, Nuria Baez Chocron

Study’s Take Home Message

“Fathers’ prepuberty and paternal grandmothers’ pregnancy are vulnerable periods to the adverse

effects of smoking on offspring’s lung function. Preventing smoking in these susceptibility time

windows might improve the next generation’s health.”

In addition to reduced lung function, prepubertal smoking in boys can lead to obesity in their sons. Thus there are considerable public health implications, particularly in the light of increasing trends of smoking, moist oral tobacco (snus) and e-cigarettes among young men. However, interventions that aim to prevent smoking (nicotine use) in these susceptibility time windows might have potential benefits for several generations. Boys who are encouraged to avoid starting to smoke (ever, but especially early) will not only have better health themselves but will also have children and even grandchildren with better health!