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A new study suggests that children who are exposed to cigarette smoke while in the womb and as babies are more than twice as likely to be deaf.

The study, which was conducted at the Kyoto University in Japan and published in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, found that three-year-old children whose mothers smoked during their pregnancies and who were exposed to second-hand smoke during the first four months of their lives, were 2.4 times more likely to suffer hearing impairment.

According to the Daily Mail, “Youngsters who were only exposed to second-hand smoke as newborns are 30 percent more at risk of deafness, while those whose mothers only smoked while expecting are 26 percent more likely to have hearing difficulties.”

Previous research has suggested that nicotine interferes with chemical messengers in the nerve that informs the brain what sound the ears are hearing, and that exposure to smoke might also iritate the lining of the middle ear.

Approximately 30 million people in the United States suffer from hearing loss.

Dr. Koji Kawakami of Kyoto University and study author said, “Although public health guidelines already discourage smoking during pregnancy and in front of children, some women still smoke during pregnancy and many young children are exposed to second-hand smoke.”

Kawakami continued, “This study clearly shows that preventing exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy and postnatally may reduce the risk of hearing problems in children. The findings remind us of the need to continue strengthening interventions to prevent smoking before and during pregnancy and exposure to second-hand smoke in children.”

In the United States and the United Kingdom, pregnant women can legally smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, although some believe doing so should be prohibited. Others say a ban prohibiting pregnant women from consuming certain products would be unenforceable, as well as a gross intervention by the “nanny state” and a violation of the mother’s free will.

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