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Quit Smoking So Your Kids Won't Start

Kids Less Likely To Smoke When Parents Quit

From the WebMD Archives

May 13, 2003 -- Here's one of the best things you can do for your children's future: Quit smoking.

If you quit by the time your kids are 8 years old, they are 39% less likely to smoke at age 17-18 than children whose parents smoke. That's the news from an amazing nine-year-long study by Jonathan B. Bricker and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington, Seattle.

That's a big deal. Nine out of 10 kids who don't smoke by the time they are 18 never become smokers.

If you think your smoking doesn't influence your teenage kids, consider this: Kids whose parents never smoked are 71% less likely to smoke.

The key time to quit is before your child is 8. Earlier research shows that kids have a window of vulnerability to parental smoking that opens around age 8 and closes around age 20.

Bricker's team gathered data on 3,012 third-graders -- and their parents' self-reported smoking -- in 20 Washington school districts. They interviewed the kids and parents again when the kids were 17 or 18 years old.

The findings: If just one parent never smoked or quit, the odds of the child becoming a daily teen smoker went down.

"It didn't matter whether one or both parents quit when the child was a baby, a toddler, or in third grade," Bricker says in a news release. "The most important thing was that they quit."

The study may actually underestimate the effect quitting has on a child. That's because the researchers did not exclude parents who tried to quit but went back to smoking.

Here's the breakdown by which parent did what:

  • Both parents never smoked: 14% of kids became smokers.
  • Both parent quit: 26% of kids became smokers.
  • Both parent smoke: 37% of kids became smokers.
  • Mother never smoked, father quit: 19% of kids became smokers.
  • Father never smoked, mother quit: 21% of kids became smokers.
  • Mother never smoked, father still smokes: 27% of kids became smokers.
  • Father never smoked, mother still smokes: 31% of kids became smokers.
  • Mother quit, father still smokes: 32% of kids became smokers.
  • Father quit, mother still smokes: 28% of kids became smokers.