1. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    I’m sure that the danger posed by smoking to fetuses is greater than that posed by crack. But then again, the “crack baby” phenomenon was mostly brought to you by the Ministry of Truth in the name of the Global War on Drugs(TM). Now what about comparing smoking to a real fetal danger: fetal alcohol syndrome? If it is comparable to that, I’ll be concerned.

    • Keith Humphreys says

      @Ebenezer — I think that is both unfair and factually misleading. Unfair because no one knew how serious the damage was as the epidemic was unfolding — lots of sincere and decent people were concerned, including people who favor drug legalization. Misleading because it’s not as if it was proved safe! It just turned out to be less dangerous than tobacco smoking.

  2. Mark A.R. Kleiman says

    The early research showed that children exposed to crack in utero were much worse off that demographically similar children not so exposed. That research was appropriately criticized because it didn’t control for alcohol exposure, and alcohol and crack use are correlated. Once you’d corrected for alcohol, there wasn’t much less, and as Harold Pollack pointed out the evidence suggested a greater role for post-natal maternal inattention due to the mother’s continued crack use than for pre-natal crack exposure.

    But there’s a twist here: the correlation between crack and alcohol isn’t entirely a matter of happenstance; heavy crack use encourages heavy drinking. So some of the effect that was being controlled away statistically was actually a real effect of crack, via its effect on drinking.

    To that extent, I agree with Keith; the “crack baby” problem was partly real, and concern about it was legitimate.

    But Ebeneezer is right, I think, to say that the “crack baby” hysteria – and especially the prosecution of mothers for “assaulting” their fetuses by taking crack – reflected a combination of drug-war fanaticism and racism/welfare-mother bashing. To the right wing, “crack babies” were a convenient reason for not spending money, or caring about, inner-city babies.

  3. Ed Whitney says

    We have had occasional posts about psilocybin research at Hopkins for a variety of purposes. Do you happen to know about the state of their research on tobacco cessation and psilocybin?

    • Bob Jesse says

      Yes. Matt Johnson at Hopkins is leading a study, a small-N pilot, of supervised psilocybin sessions embedded within a course of conventional therapy to help smokers who previously had tried multiple times, without success, to quit. We’ll need to await the paper to get the full rundown, however, word is that the abstinence rates at 12-mo are high. What is more, some volunteers report that their abstinence is effortless, without craving or struggle. Looks like something quite curious and important, maybe along these lines:

  4. James Wimberley says

    is the damage to fetuses done by nicotine or the combustion-product carcinogens? If the former, giving up by going on nicotine patches is not going to protect the baby.

    • Keith Humphreys says

      is the damage to fetuses done by nicotine or the combustion-product carcinogens

      I am not sure this is an “or” situation. One of the linked articles in my Stanford post found that nicotine itself is a problem…but that doesn’t necessarily mean the other contents of cigarettes could not also be damaging.

    • SamChevre says

      I would expect that at least some of the damage is done by nicotine–the same lower birth weight and higher incidence of birth defects are noted as reasons to avoid significant consumption of caffeine during pregnancy.

      • Ebenezer Scrooge says

        Dunno, Sam. Caffeine is a purine, and I’m not surprised to find that has a mutagenic effect. Nicotine is not a purine, and isn’t very mutagenic. Some of its catabolites and breakdown products are, however.

        Biological systems are snaky: in some ways more frustrating than social systems. You can’t predict biological function from chemical structure. (I guessed right on nicotine and caffeine from their structures, but I didn’t think of nicotine breakdown products until Mister Google told me so.) And most forms of tobacco are a mare’s nest of chemicals. Much of the tobacco damage is caused by these chemicals, with nicotine keeping the victim coming back for more abuse.

        It’s possible that e-cigarettes (i.e., straight nicotine delivery systems) don’t harm the fetus much. Or maybe the opposite. Biology isn’t very good at predictions.

  5. Don says

    I imagine quitting smoking together is also a good way to stress-test the relationship, find out if you really want to be together before adding a screaming infant to the mix.