Pregnant women who smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis (those who live with smokers) may be raising the odds that their baby will be born with a cleft lip, one of the most common types of birth defect.

Cleft lip and cleft palate arise when the tissues that form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip do not fuse properly, sometime between the fifth and ninth week of pregnancy.

Norwegian researchers found that women who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day during their first trimester were nearly twice as likely to have a baby with a cleft lip as nonsmokers were.

Granted, there are not many clueless moms who continue chain-smoking placing an ash tray on their bellies. But many of us inhale someone else’s tobacco fumes.

This angers me most: why all these god-forsaken smokers think they have the right to force other people inhale their poisons? If you choose to kill yourself, it’s fine with me, but what on Earth gives you right to spread the disease among other people?

To me, smokers who proudly march along the street with their cigarettes puffing smoke into other people’s lungs are no better off than people with syphilis or AIDS who deliberately infect others, from spite, fury or some sort of sick vendetta.

The findings are horrifying. Nonsmoking women who were near a smoker for at least two hours each day had a 60 percent higher risk of giving birth to a child with cleft palate or cleft lip than women who were not exposed to passive smoking, regardless of genetics.

“First trimester smoking was clearly associated with risk of cleft lip,” Dr. Rolv T. Lie, of the University of Bergen in Norway, concluded, after his team studied 1,336 infants — 573 of whom had an oral cleft.

Scientists report the results in the journal Epidemiology, as reported by news at