When Parents Smoke, Their Teens Are More Likely To Do The Same

Teens whose parents smoke are three times as likely to try cigarettes themselves, according to a new study.


As the old saying goes, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Teens pick up a lot of habits from their parents—both good and bad. And according to a new study, this is especially true of the bad habits. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found that teens whose parents smoke are nearly three times as likely to try smoking themselves, compared to peers whose parents don't smoke. Yikes!

To come to this conclusion, researchers used data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health for the years 2004-2012. The study compared parents' nicotine habits to those of their kids and found that 13 percent of teens whose parents never smoked had tried at least one cigarette. Meanwhile, that percent nearly tripled for teens whose parents smoked—38 percent of those teens tried at least one cigarette.

The tripling pattern reappeared when it came to teens dependent on nicotine. Of the same kids surveyed, 5 percent (whose parents never smoked) said they were dependent on nicotine, while 15 percent (whose parents did smoke) are dependent. There's clearly a connection here—if parents smoke, there's a decent chance their kids will too.

Interestingly enough, researchers also noted a gender difference. When their mothers smoke, daughters were four times more likely to be dependent on nicotine, but were less affected by their fathers' use. Boys were unaffected by their parents' dependence on nicotine.

In a press release, the study's lead author Denise Kandel, PhD, says,

To prevent teens from starting to smoke and becoming addicted to tobacco, we need to do a better job of helping parents quit smoking.

Just in case the above info isn't enough of an incentive, a recent study from the Mayo Clinic Children's Research Center found that adolescents with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to be hospitalized, compared to their peers who aren't.

To quit smoking is easier said than done, but hopefully the above will make you think twice before you light up—or at least, make you reconsider doing so in front of your kids.

For more about this topic, check out our "Teens vs. Cigarettes" story, along with "E-Cigarettes: Can They Kill You Too?" We also have a curated guide of online resources for teens and the adults in their lives. Check it out!