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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Smoking and ADHD

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 14th 2007

Perhaps we can prevent Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

The National Institute of Environmental Health just published the results of a study that explored whether or not there is a relationship between smoking and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) among children.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV ADHD is characterized by some of the following symptoms:

Inability to give attention to details and frequent making careless mistakes.

  • Inability to pay attention to tasks at play or work.
  • Often fidgets.
  • Often does not seem to listen.
  • Cannot wait turn.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often interrupts others.
  • Inability to sit in a seat at work or school.
  • Frequently losing things.
  • Easily distracted by outside stimuli such as sounds, odors, etc.
These are among the many symptoms found in the DSM IV.


The study found a positive correlation between pregnant women smoking and the increased chances of having a child with ADHD. In addition, pregnant women who were exposed to others who smoked pipes, cigars or cigarettes had an increased chance of having a child with ADHD. Apparently, any significant exposure to tobacco smoke while a woman is pregnant increases the chances of having a child with ADHD.

It's not just smoke that causes problems, either. The study also found a positive correlation between pregnant women exposed to lead in the environment and the chance of having a child with ADHD.

It should go without saying that after a child is born it is healthier for the baby and for everyone in the home to not smoke and not be exposed to second hand smoke.


At the very least people need to be aware that smoking should not occur during pregnancy. This holds true for the pregnant woman and for the others living in the household.

With regard to the negative impact of lead in the environment people need to make certain that their homes are painted with lead free products and that they do what they can to reduce exposure to lead in the home.

In addition, everyone needs to be in touch with their legislative leaders to pass laws to reduce environment pollutants. We now know that the rate of cancer in the United States has significantly dropped in recent years and this is due to a combination of people applying what has been learned about nutrition, reduced smoking and advocating for tighter environment regulations. These efforts need to continue in order to ensure that future generations will be safe. In the meantime, everyone really needs to stop smoking.


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Doh! Can you say Proofread? - Homer Simpson - Dec 11th 2007

I quote:

"Therefore it is not only important that pregnant women smoke to have an ADHD child but that they be exposed to second hand smoke."

Wow! I didn't know how very important it was to inhale as much smoke as I possibly can so that I get the best chance of having an ADHD child. Thanks for the helpful tip.

Thanks for the giggle. :)

Editor's Note: You're welcome, and thank you for pointing out an instance of awkward phrasing. You write enough and problems are bound to happen (grin!). Of course, the wording you quoted was not intended to urge women to smoke (or be around smokers) during pregnancy. Instead, it was making the point that any exposure to smoke seems to be linked to an increased risk of ADHD in subsequently born children. I've changed the wording to try to make the point clearer.

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