Parents who smoke influence their children's future smoking behaviors.

The Effects of Parents' Smoking Habits on Children's Habits

by Sharon Perkins

As parent, you might sometimes feel like you don't have a great deal of influence on your kids. But when it comes to habits such as smoking, parents play a large role in whether or not their children will pick up the habit. What you do is more important than what you say, but even if you smoke, your attitude towards your habit can have an effect on the likelihood of your child's smoking.

Parental Smoking

Whether or not you smoke has the greatest impact on whether or not your child will start smoking. In a French study published in the March 2010 issue of "Drug and Alcohol Dependence," children of smokers were twice as likely to smoke as children whose parents didn't smoke. They were also more likely to start smoking at a younger age. Children who smoked were more likely to have a mother who smoked. Parents who started smoking at a young age and who smoked heavily were more likely to have children who smoked, in a Arizona State University study published in the November 2008 issue of "Health Psychology."

Not Involving Children in Your Habit

While you can no longer send your child to the store to pick up a pack of cigarettes for you, you can send him mixed messages about smoking by involving him in your smoking in other ways. Asking him to get your cigarettes from the car, letting him light your cigarette, leaving cigarettes in easily accessible locations or even allowing him to play with candy cigarettes all send a message that smoking is okay, even though you might say otherwise. In a University of Rochester study published in the July 2007 issue of "Preventative Medicine," researchers found that adult smokers were more likely to have used candy cigarettes.

Smoking Outside

You may have decided to keep your house smoke-free so your child won't have to breathe second-hand smoke. But maintaining a smoke-free house, even if you smoke, can also influence on your child's smoking habits. If your child has started smoking, not allowing smoking in the house can reduce the amount that he smokes. If you or your partner quits smoking, keeping the house smoke-free can help you succeed in kicking the habit.

Other Influences

If your child is school-age, you already know you're not the only influence in his life. Friends, teachers and other adults can also influence your child's thinking about smoking and other potentially risky habits. Friends have the most influence during junior high, a University of California study published in the July 2013 issue of the "Journal of Adolescent Health" found. Their influence on smoking habits decreases during high school. You can exert more influence on your child's smoking habits by enforcing family rules about smoking, watching for signs that your child might have tried smoking and open dialog about the effects.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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