Although many teens don’t often copy their parents’ behavior, there’s one habit they may pick up from mom or dad — smoking.
Teens are three times more likely to smoke at least one cigarette — and their odds of nicotine dependence are nearly twice as high — if one of their parents is dependent on nicotine, the new study found.
And teenage daughters of women who smoke seem to be most at risk. These young girls were almost four times as likely to be dependent on nicotine if their mother was a regular smoker, the researchers said.
“Most smokers start smoking when they are teenagers. As this study shows, parents are a powerful influence,” the study’s lead author, Denise Kandel, a professor of sociomedical sciences in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, said in a university news release.
“To prevent teens from starting to smoke and becoming addicted to tobacco, we need to do a better job of helping parents quit smoking,” she said.
The study included data from the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health collected between 2004 and 2012. Researchers reviewed information on the smoking habits of 35,000 sets of parents and their teenage kids.
Of the teens whose parents never smoked, 13 percent said they smoked at least one cigarette in their lifetime. In contrast, of the teens that had a parent that was dependent on nicotine, 38 percent said they smoked at least once, the study revealed.
When the researchers only considered the teens that admitted to smoking at least one cigarette, they found 5 percent were dependent if their parent didn’t smoke, and 15 percent were dependent if their parent was hooked on cigarettes.
Girls didn’t seem to be more likely to become dependent if their father smoked, and whether or not a parent smoked didn’t seem to impact the risk of tobacco dependence for boys, the researchers said.
The study authors suggested that reaching out to parents and educating them about smoking and its effects on their kids during pediatrician visits might help give parents a reason to try to quit.
The study was published online Sept. 17 in the American Journal of Public Health.
The American Lung Association has more about why kids start smoking.