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Kids More Likely to Smoke if Older Sibling Smokes, or if Parent Smoked as a Teen

8/5/2013 For Release: August 5, 2013

Adolescents are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke, and a new study points to the strong influence of an older sibling who smokes, too. The study, “Parent and Child Cigarette Use: A Longitudinal,Multigenerational Study,” published in the September 2013 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 5), documents how parents’ long-term smoking habits affect their children’s likelihood of smoking. Data from 214 parents and 314 children ages 11 years and older were analyzed. Eight percent of the children of nonsmoking parents smoked in the last year. Of children of smokers, between 23 percent and 29 percent had smoked in the past year. Rates varied according to how consistently the parents smoked, but even children of “light” smokers who reduced or quit later in adulthood had a higher risk of smoking. Parental smoking at any age, even before the child was born, increased the chances that their children would smoke. Researchers also found that children who had an older sibling who smokes were more than 6 times more likely to smoke than children who do not have a sibling who smokes. An older smoking sibling was 15 times more likely to be present in a household with a heavy-smoking parent compared to nonsmoking parents. The study authors concluded that intervention efforts should target parents who were smokers at any point from adolescence to adulthood, and that prevention efforts should also target the smoking behavior of older siblings. 


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit

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