The children of smokers are likely to begin smoking between 13 and 21 years of age - earlier than those whose parents don't smoke, says a new study.
Researchers at the University of Washington tracked the development of positive and antisocial behaviours among 808 individuals. They originally were recruited as fifth-grade students from elementary schools in high-crime Seattle neighbourhoods, reports science portal EurekAlert.
"Keeping children from smoking starts with parents and their behaviour. Some parents say they disapprove of teenage smoking, but continue to smoke themselves," said Karl Hill, director of the University of Washington's Seattle Social Development Project and an associate research professor of social work.
"The evidence is clear from this study that if parents don't want their children to start smoking, it is important for them to stop or reduce their own smoking," Hill said.
Children whose parents smoked are twice as likely to begin smoking between 13 and 21. Twelve-year-olds, whose parents smoked, were more than two times as likely to begin smoking cigarettes on a daily basis between the ages of 13 and 21 than children, whose parents didn't use tobacco, the study concludes.
The researchers interviewed individuals at ages 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 and 21. The group was nearly equally divided among males and females. Forty-six percent were white, 24 percent were black, 21 percent were Asian Americans, 6 percent were American Indians and three percent were from other ethnic backgrounds.
The study found differences in daily smoking rates both by gender and racial background.
Over all, 37 percent of the individuals reported daily smoking by age 21, of which 42 percent were males and 32 percent females, according to the study.
Whites (43 percent) were more likely to have begun regular smoking by 21 than blacks (35 percent) and Asian Americans (24 percent). However, Indians (54 percent) were the group most likely to have begun daily smoking by age 21.
Smoking rates predictably increased, as the individuals got older. Just a little more than 2 percent had started smoking daily at 13. That rate increased to 5 percent at 14, 12 percent at 15, 18 percent at 16, and 27 percent at 18.