Symposium – Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Offspring Health Outcomes: The Role of Epignetic Research in Informal Legal Policy and Practice

Taylor F. Smith, Matthew A. Maccani, and Valerie S. Knopik

Volume 64, Issue 6, 1619-1648

Scientific advances in epidemiology and epigenetics emphasize the importance of prenatal and intergenerational environmental influences and epigenetic regulation in altering vulnerability for later health outcomes. These findings may have wide-ranging legal implications; however, to avoid misapplication, a thorough understanding of the scientific literature and legal precedent is warranted. A growing body of literature suggests that negative health outcomes associated with prenatal smoke exposure may result, in part, from aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Such findings emphasize the need to reduce rates of prenatal cigarette smoke exposure in order to promote health for both current and future generations. This Article provides a focused overview of research examining the interrelationships between maternal smoking during pregnancy, epigenetic regulation, and vulnerability for later health outcomes. Additionally, this Article discusses legal, ethical, and policy challenges related to reducing smoke exposure during pregnancy.

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