A new study finds a connection between how much abused children will smoke once they do start and not between whether they will ever begin smoking.
"In other words, people are as likely to smoke whether or not they were sexually or physically abused, but they're inclined to smoke more if they were abused and have a history of smoking," Todd Herrenkohl, a professor in the UW School of Social Work, said.
Herrenkohl and co-authors probed the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, which began in the mid-1970s.
Participants were recruited from child welfare abuse and protective service programs, as well as day care programs, private nursery programs and Head Start classrooms in Eastern Pennsylvania.
UW researchers looked specifically for any connection between physical or sexual abuse and adolescent and adult smoking.
They found that boys who had experienced either type of abuse and were smokers, smoked more than those who hadn't been abused as a child.
For girls who smoked, only those who had been sexually abused smoked more as adolescents.
That frequency of adolescent smoking by both girls and boys, in turn, led to increased smoking in adulthood, especially among women.
The study is published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.