Heavily smoking women who cannot quit in pregnancy: Evidence of pharmacokinetic predisposition

Peter Selby, Richard Hackman, Bhushan Kapur, Julia Klein, Gideon Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Smoking in pregnancy is associated with a well-characterized increase in perinatal risks. Despite their wish to discontinue smoking, some pregnant women cannot stop. To characterize nicotine and cotinine levels in women who could not quit smoking after the first trimester, the authors recruited 19 white women (age 17-41 years) between 14-23 weeks of gestation who could not quit smoking. They started smoking at ages 11-22 years (mean 14.5) and smoked for 17 ± 6 years. They had their first cigarettes 5-60 minutes after waking up (mean 12). Nicotine levels were compared with those expected in white patients in the general population, and the cotinine levels per cigarette smoked were compared with the population-based values. Sixteen of the 19 women had nicotine levels substantially lower than those expected. The mean level of serum cotinine produced by one cigarette per day was 19.1 ± 15.8 ng/mL (range 6.1-67). The expected levels in white patients in the general population are 13 ± 7.7 ng/mL. The data suggest that pregnant women who cannot quit heavy smoking in the second trimester form a selective group with pharmacokinetic predisposition to a high rate of nicotine metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-191
Number of pages3
JournalTherapeutic Drug Monitoring
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cotinine
  • Nicotine
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking


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