CHILDREN whose mothers smoke heavily while pregnant are more likely to become repeat offenders as adults, according to research. Those whose mothers smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day were 30 per cent more likely to have become repeat offenders, found the American study. The finding, which applied equally to men and women, held true even after medical and social factors like mental health and deprivation were taken into account. The study tracked almost 4,000 children born between 1959 and 1966, whose mothers were asked a range of questions including on their smoking habits. In 1999/2000, when all the children were at least 33, criminal record checks were conducted. The authors, whose study is published online today (TUES) in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, said there was plausible evidence that nicotine affected the development of the brain. However, they could not definitively conclude there was a causal relationship between maternal smoking and adult offending. Professor James Walker, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said, Smoking harms the pregnant woman and the developing fetus. The risks include low birthweight, preterm birth and stillbirth. Post-birth, if the mother smokes, very often, so will the father and the baby is doubly exposed to toxic fumes. 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. -Telegraph