"It is important to know how a father's smoking habit pre-conception can affect the respiratory health of his children," said Dr. Cecile Svanes from the University of Bergen, Norway.

Analyzing the smoking habits of over 13,000 men and women via a questionnaire, researchers found that non-allergic asthma was significantly more common in children with a father who smoked prior to conception.

This risk of asthma increased if a father smoked before the age of 15 and this risk grew proportionately with decrease in the age of initiation.

However, researchers observed no link between the mothers’s smoking prior to conception and a child's asthma.

Given these results, we can presume that exposure to any type of air pollution, from occupational exposures to chemical exposures, could also have an effect, Dr. Svanes added.

"It is important for policy makers to focus on interventions targeting young men and warning them of the dangers of smoking and other exposures to their unborn children in the future," researchers told the gathering at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich recently.

The findings also add to the growing evidence from animal studies which suggest that the father's exposures before parenthood can harm his child.

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