An Australian study that followed patients over five decades reveals that children of mothers who smoke have an increased likelihood of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adulthood.

The risk was even more pronounced when children exposed to maternal cigarette smoke at a young age took up smoking later in life, which is a risk factor for COPD by itself.

The findings indicate that there may be a combined effect of passive smoking in childhood and active smoking later in life on lung function at middle age.

"We now appreciate that the risk of COPD can be accumulated from sources other than personal smoking, where the negative consequences of a mother's smoking may continue through to later adult life," said Dr. Jennifer Perret, lead author of the Respirology study. "Our findings further strengthen the current recommendation for smoking abstinence, especially for pregnant women and young mothers."