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Children with Parents who Have Smoked Before have a Higher risk of Smoking

Update Date: Aug 05, 2013 01:24 PM EDT
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The common phrase, 'Monkey see and Monkey do," suggests that people tend to follow the actions of others around them. Due to this belief, parents and adults often present themselves in a positive light around children, hoping that they would pick up on good behaviors over bad ones. Despite this concept, a new study suggests that children with parents who used to be smokers but quit before the birth of their children are still at a greater risk of lighting up. Furthermore, children of smokers are also more likely to smoke.

The research team headed by assistant professor of sociology from Purdue University, Mike Vuolo and associate professor of sociology from Pennsylvania State University, Jeremy Staff, reviewed data that was compiled from a multigenerational study. This study followed participants from 1988 all the way up to 2011. The researchers focused on 214 of the participants who became parents and 314 of their children. The children were aged 11 or older during the time of the study. The researchers looked specifically at four categories of smoking when the parents were teenagers, who included heavy smokers, light smokers that reduced the number of cigarettes or completely quit, nonsmokers, and smokers who started later than the average age.

The researchers discovered that parents who were heavy smokers when they were teenagers had children who were more likely to pick up the habit. The researchers noted that in these households, the oldest sibling most likely started smoking first, which influenced the younger siblings as well. These younger siblings become six times more likely to smoke. The study found that parents who smoked before the birth of the child still increased the child's risk of smoking.

"We should educate young people that smoking at any time in their lives could have influences on their children. Also, preventative efforts should target heavy-smoking households, trying to break the cycle of influence on the oldest siblings," Vuolo said according to HealthDay.

This finding reiterated previous studies that reported on the significance of the role of family history on picking up habits. Due to the added evidence that parents' actions affect their children's decisions, the researchers believe that people must be more aware of their actions. Parents should also consider discussing drug and alcohol use with their children.

"We should encourage doctors to ask about a family history of smoking, because if there is a family history of smoking then that individual is more likely to be a smoker in the future," Dr. John Spangler, a professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said. Spangler believed that a genetic factor might be at play. "This may also be a good way for physicians to counsel parents about and children about tobacco use - that there is this risk factor."

The study's findings were published in Pediatrics.

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