Children of nicotine-addicted parents more likely to become heavy smokers

May 12, 2014

The more time a child is exposed to a parent addicted to smoking, the more likely the youth will not only take up cigarettes but also become a heavy smoker.

So warns a team of researchers led by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists in Pediatrics. The study, published online today, is among the first to take a prospective, intergenerational view of the impact a parent's behavior has on smoking risk for their adolescent offspring.

The findings suggest that parental early in their children's lives is critical to prevent habitual smoking in the next generation.

"It is difficult to dissuade children from smoking if one or both parents are heavily dependent on cigarettes," says the study's lead investigator, Darren Mays, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi. "It is also important for parents who smoke to know that their children may model the behavior, particularly if a parent is nicotine dependent."

Mays says nicotine dependence is characterized by strong cravings to smoke, needing more nicotine to feel the same effects and feeling discomfort (withdrawal) without the drug.

The video will load shortly
Video courtesy: Georgetown University and the American Heart Association

"Our study supports the need for pediatric clinics to be vigilant about the smoking habits of their patients and their patients' parents," Mays adds. "For parents who want to quit help can be provided." Raymond Niaura, PhD, the study's leader and senior author, is an adjunct professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi, and associate director for science of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies in Washington.

"This is one of the most comprehensive analyses of smoking risk in adolescents as it relates to family life," he says. "The findings that exposure to parental is a critical factor influencing intergenerational transmission of smoking are striking and troubling – but they give us a direction to go in reducing that risk."

The study is a continuation of research Niaura began as a professor at Brown University, where he co-led the New England Family Study (NEFS).

More than 400 and their participating adolescent children ages 12-17 (second and third generations of NEFS participants), were interviewed at the beginning of the study with the children interviewed two more times, one year and then five years later.

The study shows that the more years a child was exposed to a parent's dependent smoking (using American Psychiatric Association criteria) the greater the risk that an adolescent would begin smoking or experimenting with cigarettes.

"We believe social learning plays an important role in intergenerational ," Mays says. "If is key, then can also learn from a parent who smokes that it is possible—and wise—to quit."

Explore further: ADHD treatment associated with lower smoking rates

Related Stories

ADHD treatment associated with lower smoking rates

May 12, 2014
Treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with stimulant medication may reduce smoking risk, especially when medication is taken consistently, according to an analysis led by researchers at Duke Medicine.

Young parents who use e-cigarettes believe devices are safer for those around them

May 4, 2014
Many young parents are using electronic cigarettes, and despite any evidence for safety, the vast majority of young adults who have used the devices believe they are less harmful than regular cigarettes, according to research ...

E-cigarettes: Gateway to nicotine addiction for US teens, says study

March 6, 2014
E-cigarettes, promoted as a way to quit regular cigarettes, may actually be a new route to conventional smoking and nicotine addiction for teenagers, according to a new UC San Francisco study.

If parents ever smoked, teens may be more likely to light up

August 5, 2013
(HealthDay)—Teens of a parent who smoked—even if the mother or father quit before the teen was born—are more likely to smoke than those whose parents are nonsmokers, a new study finds.

Study finds that smokers who try e-cigarettes to quit are younger and more motivated to quit

July 23, 2013
University of Hawaii Cancer Center Prevention and Control Program researchers Pallav Pokhrel, PhD and Thaddeus Herzog, PhD have found that smokers who use e-cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking tend to be younger and more ...

Preteens surrounded by smokers get hooked on nicotine

June 13, 2011
Exposure to secondhand smoke can create symptoms of nicotine dependence in non-smoking preteens, according to a new study from Concordia University and the University of Montreal.

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet May 12, 2014
Then there's the opposite reaction; to shun cigarettes in utter disgust.

Downside arrives decades later, via COPD from passive smoking...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.