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Sep 18, 2015 05:14 PM EDT

Teens Are More likely To Smoke If Their Parents Do

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Teenagers are more likely to pick up smoking and be dependent on nicotine if one or both of their parents are habitual smokers, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Columbia University found that 13 percent of adolescents whose parent never smoked said they had ever smoked at least one cigarette. By comparison, 38 percent of teens whose parent was dependent on nicotine had smoked at least one cigarette.

"Most smokers start smoking when they are teenagers. As this study shows, parents are a powerful influence," Denise Kandel, lead author of the study, said in a statement. "To prevent teens from starting to smoke and becoming addicted to tobacco, we need to do a better job of helping parents quit smoking."

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from 35,000 parent-adolescent pairs and analyzed their responses regarding the smoking status and nicotine dependence of parents and adolescents. Additional data were collected, including parent and adolescent perceived risk of smoking, depression, adolescent use of alcohol or other drugs, and perceptions of the quality of parenting, such as parental monitoring, level of support, and instances of conflict.

They found that among teenagers who had smoked at least one cigarette, 5 percent were dependent if their parent never smoked, but 15 percent were dependent if their parent was dependent. The effect of parental smoking and dependence persisted after controlling for factors such as adolescent use of alcohol and other drugs. Overall, teens had three times the odds of smoking at least one cigarette, and nearly twice the odds of nicotine dependence, if their parent was dependent on nicotine.

Daughters were almost four times as likely to be dependent on nicotine when their mothers were dependent on nicotine but were not affected by fathers' nicotine dependence. Sons' dependence was not affected by parental dependence.

The findings are detailed in the American Journal of Public Health.

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