UTSPH researchers examine three generations of smoking

Does smoking pass down from generation to generation to yet a third generation? Yes, according to researchers at The University of Texas School of Public Health, but only if the second generation smokes. This is one of the few published studies to look at smoking behavior across three generations. Results were published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Vandewater Elizabeth web | UTSPH researchers examine three generations of smoking

Elizabeth Vandewater, PhD

Elizabeth Vandewater, PhD, associate professor in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, and Anna Wilkinson, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Science, examined three generations of the U.S. population from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to determine if behaviors are passed down and examine the magnitude of the influence of smoking behaviors across generations.

“Regardless of generation, having a parent who smoked significantly increased the odds of smoking among offspring,” Vandewater said.

While the direct link between a grandparent ever smoking and a young adult smoking was not significant, the researchers noted that ever smoking in grandparents increased the odds of young adult smoking by roughly two times.

Anna Wilkinson web 231x300 | UTSPH researchers examine three generations of smoking

Anna Wilkinson, PhD

Wilkinson said the analyses showed that parental smoking mediated the link between young adult smoking and the smoking behavior of their grandparents.

“In contrast to a model where smoking in earlier generations directly affects smoking in all following generations, our results indicated that smoking behaviors are transferred from preceding generations to later generations with the strongest links between the two most proximal generations,” Wikinson said.

Vandewater and Wilkinson believe that their results imply that environmental influences may have a stronger influence on smoking behavior than genetic influences, but note that this remains to be confirmed in future studies.

Graduate research assistants Seoung Eun Park, MA, and Felicia R. Carey, BA, BS, of the UT School of Public Health were also authors on the study.