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Children Of Nicotine-Addicted Parents More Likely To Become Heavy Smokers In Adulthood

Update Date: May 12, 2014 09:34 AM EDT

Every time a child is exposed to a parent addicted to smoking, chances of him turning into a heavy smoker in adulthood increases, according to a new study. 

The study is among the first to take a prospective intergenerational view of the impact a parent's behavior has on smoking risk for their adolescent offspring. 

According to the study, parental smoking cessation early in their children's lives is critical in preventing habitual smoking in the next generation. 

"It is difficult to dissuade children from smoking if one or both parents are heavily dependent on cigarettes," said the study's lead investigator, Darren Mays, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi, in the press release. "It is also important for parents who smoke to know that their children may model the behavior, particularly if a parent is nicotine dependent."

Mays added that nicotine independence is characterized by strong craving to smoke, needing more nicotine to feel the same effects and feeling discomfort without the drug. 

"Our study supports the need for pediatric clinics to be vigilant about the smoking habits of their patients and their patients' parents," Mays added. "For parents who want to quit help can be provided." Raymond Niaura, PhD, the study's leader and senior author, is an adjunct professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi, and associate director for science of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies in Washington.

"This is one of the most comprehensive analyses of smoking risk in adolescents as it relates to family life," he said in the press release. "The findings that exposure to parental nicotine dependence is a critical factor influencing intergenerational transmission of smoking are striking and troubling - but they give us a direction to go in reducing that risk."

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics

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