Parent and Family Influences

Almost half (47.8%) of U.S. adolescents try smoking by the time they are in 9th grade. Most (90%) adult smokers began smoking at or before they were 18 years old.

In addition to not smoking themselves, there are a number of ways parents can make a difference. Setting rules about movie viewing, communicating with your child, and being aware of how your behavior might influence your children at an early age are all ways that parents can reduce their children's chances of smoking.

Children are at lower risk of smoking and drinking if their parents monitor and set limits on their movie viewing.

As reported in the November 2006 issue of Pediatrics, we found that pre-teens were much less likely to be at risk of smoking or drinking if their parents restricted them from watching R-rated movies and consistently monitored what movies their children watched.

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R-rated movie restrictions make a difference.

Children whose parents restrict movie watching are two-thirds less likely to smoke or drink compared with children with no restrictions on R-rated movie viewing.

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Preschoolers mimic smoking and drinking while role-playing as adults.

  • Children whose parents smoked were four times more likely to buy cigarettes than the children of non-smokers.
  • Children whose parents drank alcohol at least monthly were three times more likely to purchase alcohol.

In a "role-play" study, children 2-6 years old used dolls to go shopping for an "adult social evening." What they bought may surprise you:

  • Thirty-four children (28.3%) bought cigarettes.
  • Seventy-four children (61.7%) bought alcohol.
  • Twenty-nine of these children (21.4%) bought both alcohol and cigarettes.

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Women quit smoking due to pregnancy identify the primary reasons they begin smoking again:

  • Having a partner who smoked
  • Frequent associations with other family members/friends who smoke
  • Cessation of breastfeeding
  • Life stressors (e.g., financial stress, move, relationship break-up)

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