The more time a child is exposed to a parent addicted to smoking, the more likely the youth would become a heavy smoker, research says.
Kicking the butt early is, therefore, critical to prevent habitual smoking in the next generation, the study noted.
“It is difficult to dissuade children from smoking if one or both parents are heavily dependent on cigarettes,” said Darren Mays, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the US.
“It is also important for parents who smoke to know that their children may model the behaviour, particularly if a parent is nicotine dependent,” Mays added.
Nicotine dependence is characterised by strong cravings to smoke, needing more nicotine to feel the same effects and feeling discomfort (withdrawal) without the drug.
More than 400 parents and their participating adolescent children ages 12-17, were interviewed at the beginning of the study with the children interviewed two more times, one year and then five years later.
The more years a child was exposed to a parent’s nicotine dependent smoking (using American Psychiatric Association criteria) the greater the risk that an adolescent would begin smoking or experimenting with cigarettes, the findings showed.
The study highlights that social learning plays an important role in intergenerational smoking.
If social learning is the key, then children can also learn from a parent who smokes that it is possible – and wise – to quit, Mays noted in the study that appeared in the journal Pediatrics.