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Mar 05, 2015 11:29 PM EST

Family Interventions May Reduce Smoking Rates in Children, Teens

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Family-based programs can be highly effective in stopping children from taking up smoking, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Canada's University of Calgary and Queensland University of Technology found that high intensity family-based programs and interventions might reduce uptake or experimentation with smoking by between 16 and 32 percent.

"Preventing children from starting to smoke is important to avoid a lifetime of addiction, poor health, and social and economic consequences," researcher and professor Philip Baker from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation said in a statement. "The common feature of the effective high intensity interventions was encouraging authoritative parenting; where parents showing strong interest in and care for the adolescent, often with rule setting."

According to the Australian Government's Department of Health, each year smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australians and costs the nation $31.5 billion in social (including health) and economic costs.

For the study, researchers examined 27 randomized controlled studies of more than 36,000 participants. Fourteen of the studies reported measures of smoking which enabled meta-analysis, a research technique in combining studies for a larger, much more powerful conclusion.

"We found the most effective interventions are those which encourage parents to think they can make a difference in their adolescent's tobacco-related behavior, strengthen their nurturing skills, encourage the setting of limits, and provide strategies for meaningful discussion with their adolescents about substances. This approach helps strengthen their children's ability to push back peer pressure," Baker said.

Professor Roger Thomas from the University of Calgary said the review also identified that that family-based programs can be combined with school-based programs to increase the effect of those conducted in schools.

"In Canada, rates of smoking in adults are at the lowest level for years through control efforts and people quitting. However, preventing addiction in the first place, especially during childhood, is critical to living a smoke-free life," Thomas said. "Our review demonstrates an opportunity for families, the community and the government to invest in family programs which offer a lifetime benefit."

The findings are detailed in the Cochrane Library of the Cochrane Collaboration.

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