The new study led by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital has found that children of parents who smoke are likely to share a tendency to act impulsively, a trait that could be linked to a decision to become a smoker.
Lead researcher Brady Reynolds focused his study on the connection between smoking and impulsivity, or more specifically, delay discounting.
Delay discounting describes a person's preference for a smaller, more immediate reward over a larger reward that is delayed for a period of time.
It also has been shown to play an important role in the behaviour of cigarette smoking.
The research team found that cigarette-smoking mothers chose the immediate reward (discounted) significantly more than non-smoking mothers.
Similarly, children of mothers who smoked discounted significantly more than children of non-smokers.
"Based on our findings, campaigns to prevent adolescents from smoking are likely to be more effective if they emphasize short-term consequences to smoking, as opposed to long-term consequences," said Reynolds, also a member of the faculty at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
"This strategy would seem to be especially important for those adolescents most at risk of nicotine addiction," Reynolds added.
During the study, the researchers examined 60 participants in the central Ohio community and included half of the mothers who reported currently smoking, and the other half reported never smoking. All of the children (12-13-years-old) were non-smokers.
"Our study is significant in that it indicates most adolescent smokers, or children at risk of smoking, respond to more immediate consequences when making choices," said Reynolds.
"Therefore, prevention programs that stress the long-term negative effects of smoking are going to be less effective for those adolescents most at risk of smoking. Also, cessation programs focused on long-term outcomes will likely be less effective for adolescent smokers attempting to quit."
The study appears in anuary issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence and currently available online at ScienceDirect.