A new study shows young adults who had very low birth weights are likely to experience more damage to their lungs from smoking than others born at higher birth rates. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia, reports respiratory function is more drastically reduced with smoking among this group.
A study of 60 individuals with low birth weight, defined as weighing less than 2.2 pounds, yielded these results. Respiratory function was measured around age 8 and then again around age 20. The data was compared between 14 smokers and 30 nonsmokers. The researchers evaluated the force airflow measures and total lung capacity.
They report active smoking by young adults, who were born weighing 2.2 pounds or less, reduces respiratory function. They say many low birth weight children require assisted ventilation and oxygen therapy soon after birth. Previous studies show these children grow up to have good respiratory function unless they are exposed to secondhand smoke. This new study went a step further with active smoking.
At age 20, several respiratory functions were diminished in the smokers. Lung volumes were nearly the same in smokers and nonsmokers. The greatest difference was observed in the reduction of airflow. Lung growth was also negatively affected in those exposed to cigarettes.
Another reported finding is that significantly more smokers had asthma at both 8 and 20 years of age. The researchers speculate it is possible that smoking triggered asthma in some of the individuals. They feel there are other factors that will reveal more understanding of the connection between smoking and lung function in this patient group, but more studies are needed.