The more time a child is exposed to a parent addicted to
smoking, the more likely the youth will take up cigarettes and become a heavy smoker.
A new study by researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the June 2014 Pediatrics, "Parental Smoking Exposure and Adolescent Smoking Trajectories," published online May 12, compared different patterns of parental smoking and how that impacts their children's smoking initiation, concluding that children exposed to more years of parental smoking are more likely to become regular smokers.
Roughly 400 adolescents ages 12 to 17 and a parent completed baseline interviews about parental smoking
history, including timing and duration, current smoking, and nicotine dependence. Adolescents also completed up to two follow-up interviews 1 and 5 years later that assessed their smoking and nicotine dependence. Researchers identified four adolescent smoking trajectories:
- Early regular smokers (6 percent)
- Early experimenters (23 percent)
- Late experimenters (41 percent)
- Nonsmokers (30 percent)
Adolescents with parents who were nicotine-dependent smokers at the baseline interview were more likely to be regular smokers and early experimenters with each additional year of previous exposure to parental smoking.
Study authors conclude that teens' risk of smoking increases with nicotine-dependent parents, and that this risk increases the longer this exposure endures. Research is needed to identify ways to
help parents quit smoking early in their child's lifetime to reduce these risks and prevent smoking in families.