Teenagers whose parents smoke are four times more likely to take it up themselves, experts have warned.

Analysis has also shown that early teens whose main caregiver smoked were more than twice as likely to have tried cigarettes (26% vs 11% ) and four times as likely to be a regular smoker (4.9% vs 1.2%).

A new government Better Health Smoke Free campaign has launched as leading family doctors warn of the issues facing the children of smokers – and calls on people to help prevent this by quitting in January.

In a new film released today, NHS and behavioural health experts discuss the link between adult smoking and the likelihood of children in their household becoming smokers. This includes family GP Dr Nighat Arif, child psychologist Dr Bettina Hohnen, and smoking cessation experts Professor Nick Hopkinson and Dr Anthony Laverty of Imperial College London, who have called on parents in particular to give up smoking in the new year in order to set a good example to their children.

Maggie Throup MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Vaccines and Public Health, explained why the campaign is launching now:

We know that many people make a quit attempt in January, and while there are so many good reasons to stop smoking for yourself, we hope that this new campaign – by highlighting the inter-generational smoking link with parents influencing their children – will be the added motivation many need to ditch the cigarettes for good this year.

With so much help and support available for parents, carers and anyone looking to quit – including the NHS Quit Smoking app, support on Facebook, daily emails and texts, and an online Personal Quit Plan – you won’t be alone in your New Year’s resolution.

Recent research from NatCen Social Research has also shown children aged 10-15 were more likely to smoke if either their mother or father currently smoked. Children were also more likely to smoke if either parent had smoked in the past, even if they were not a current smoker.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer and joint lead for the Office for Health Improvement and Disparity, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy said:

Smoking is terrible for your health but it also has a negative impact on people around you.

Most people know the dangers of second smoke but we should not overlook the impact that parents have as role models. Every parent wants what is best for their child and will not want them to become smokers. By stopping smoking now, parents can help break the pattern of smoking in their family across the generations, protect their children and improve their own health.

The film forms part of the Better Health Smoke Free campaign from the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) in the Department of Health and Social Care, and aims to give smokers a strong motivation to quit in January, offering free and proven NHS resources and advice.

The campaign comes as the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that one in eight adults in England still smokes. There has been a complex picture of smoking patterns since the pandemic, with high rates of quitting but also high levels of relapse and signs of a rise in smoking rates among younger adults.

Professor Nick Hopkinson of Imperial College London said:

Our research findings are clear – adult smoking has a tangible impact on children. Children whose caregivers smoke are four times as likely to take up smoking themselves. The most effective way to help prevent this would be for adults to quit smoking – clearly not only does this have enormous benefits for them but it will also benefit their children both now and in later life.


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