Smoking During Teen Years Makes It Less Likely Cessation Will Occur Later in Life

Kids or teenagers who start smoking at a younger age have more trouble kicking the habit later in life.

“Based on our data coupled with a variety of other evidence, we found childhood smoking leads to adult smoking,” said lead study author David Jacobs, Jr., PhD, Mayo Professor of Public Health in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The study from the Journal of the American Heart Association reveled that habit of daily smoking, when started early, can persist even into the 40s and beyond. The research represents the longest follow-up of any study of early-age smoking to date. The study of more than 6,000 Finnish individuals (57% female) between the ages of 16 and 19, and evaluated in their 20s and their 40s was part of the International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohort Consortium.

Smoking While Young Hinders Quitting

The participant cohort (n=6,687) provided data on their smoking status through their 20s and their 40s. According to the researchers, daily smoking in their 20s was directly related to smoking degree during adolescence and inversely related to the age at which smoking experience occurred (P for trend<0.001), with similar patterns continuing through the 40s. Cessation by the time participants were in their 40s was inverse to the degree of smoking during ages six thru 19, according to the data (P trend<0.001). Just 2.6% of study participants who started for the first time after their 20s smoked through their 40s. Frequency in childhood and adolescence was similar in Finland, Australia, and the United States.

“Even in low income and developing countries, the societal reinforcement of smoking, the basic addictive qualities of nicotine, and the maturation of children and children’s judgment through adolescence are universal,” Jacobs . “As children mature through adolescence, they may have developed a better ability to resist impulses and to reject social pressures.”

Rose Marie Robertson, MD, FAHA, deputy chief science and medical officer for the Association and co-principal investigator of the American Heart Association’s Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science, offered perspective on the importance of the study.

“This is a very important study, both because it has data from multiple countries and because it has been able to follow individuals into middle age, a critical observation,” said Dr. Robertson, who was not involved in this study, of the results. “It re-emphasizes the importance of keeping tobacco products out of the hands of children before age 21 to prevent long-term addiction. Vaping products had not been introduced at the time these study participants were teens, but it is plausible that the findings may relate to vaping as well, since both addiction to nicotine and the adverse effects of nicotine on the developing brain in youth are relevant to these nicotine delivery devices as well.”