Children of nicotine-addicted parents more likely to become heavy smokers

May 12, 2014

WASHINGTON -- The more time a child is exposed to a parent addicted to smoking, the more likely the youth will not only take up cigarettes but also become a heavy smoker.

So warns a team of researchers led by Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists in Pediatrics. The study, published online today, 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.

The findings suggest that parental smoking cessation early in their children's lives is critical to prevent habitual smoking in the next generation.

"It is difficult to dissuade children from smoking if one or both parents are heavily dependent on cigarettes," says the study's lead investigator, Darren Mays, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi. "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 says nicotine dependence is characterized by strong cravings to smoke, needing more nicotine to feel the same effects and feeling discomfort (withdrawal) 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 adds. "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 says. "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 a continuation of research Niaura began as a professor at Brown University, where he co-led the New England Family Study (NEFS).

More than 400 parents and their participating adolescent children ages 12-17 (second and third generations of NEFS participants), were interviewed at the beginning of the study with the children interviewed two more times, one year and then five years later.

The study shows that the more years a child was exposed to a parent's nicotine dependent smoking (using American Psychiatric Association criteria) the greater the risk that an adolescent would begin smoking or experimenting with cigarettes.

"We believe social learning plays an important role in intergenerational smoking," Mays says. "If social learning is key, then children can also learn from a parent who smokes that it is possible -- and wise -- to quit."
-end-
Investigators from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brown University Medical School also participated in the research.

This research was supported by NIH Transdisciplinary Tobacco Research Center Award (CA084719).

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (grant #P30 CA051008), and the only one in the Washington, DC area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.georgetown.edu.

About Georgetown University Medical Center

Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC's mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis - or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Georgetown University Medical Center

Related Smoking Articles from Brightsurf:

Smoking rates falling in adults, but stroke survivors' smoking rates remain steady
While the rate of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen steadily over the last two decades, the rate of stroke survivors who smoke has not changed significantly.

What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows!
A new study from researchers at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication found that most people, smokers and non-smokers alike, were nowhere near accurate in their answers to questions about smoking's health effects.

Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.

Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.

Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

How the UK smoking ban increased wellbeing
Married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being following the smoking bans in the UK in 2006 and 2007 but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.

Smoking study personalizes treatment
A simple blood test is allowing Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

A biophysical smoking gun
While much about Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery, scientists do know that part of the disease's progression involves a normal protein called tau, aggregating to form ropelike inclusions within brain cells that eventually strangle the neurons.

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.

Read More: Smoking News and Smoking Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.