Girls, Children of Smokers, Underachievers, Likelier to Become Smokers

Research on the psychosocial risk factors for regular tobacco use
    • February 1, 2001

From 1997 to 1999, researchers at the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University conducted a study examining how children progress from experimentation with tobacco to regular use.

The study analyzed data previously collected as part of the Rutgers Health and Human Development Project, a longitudinal study on the development of drug use that began in 1979 and was originally funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Key Findings

  • Females became dependent on tobacco about one year earlier, on average, than did males.

  • Regular smokers were more likely than occasional smokers to have:

    • A parent who smoked.
    • Parents and friends who were tolerant of smoking.
    • A greater attachment to their parents.
    • A mother who smoked during pregnancy.

    Regular smokers were also more impulsive, earned lower grades, and were less religious compared with occasional smokers.

  • People who quit smoking were more likely than people who smoked during the study to have gotten married or to report a decrease in the number of friends who smoked.

  • There was no evidence that cigarettes serve as a gateway drug for future alcohol, marijuana, and/or hard drug use dependence.