In a pathbreaking study conducted in India, scientists say women exposed to passive smoke run a high risk of giving birth to babies with oral cleft or palate. Although family history or mutation of a gene are considered to be major causes, scientists have long blamed exposure to environmental pollutants, especially during the time of conception, as a reason as well. According to Dr MB Aswath Narayanan, one of the authors of the study, 87.5 per cent of the mothers of babies with the deformity were exposed to secondhand smoke for a duration of less than 5 years. Almost all of these women were exposed to smoke from 1-10 cigarettes daily for a duration of less than 30 minutes.

In UAE, with 25 to 30 per cent of adult population is known to be smoking some form of tobacco, this finding could be a cause for serious concern.