Aims: To investigate whether parental smoking and other parental behaviours are risk factors for smoking in 14- and 15-year-old children.
Methods: National cross-sectional survey of 14 930 female and 14 341 male 4th form students who answered an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire in November 2001.
Results: The effect of both parents smoking on the risk of daily smoking by students varied significantly (p <0.0001) between ethnic groups, being strongest for Asian students (adjusted relative risk (RR) = 6.64 compared with students of non-smoking parents), intermediate for European (RR = 3.11) and Pacific (RR = 3.05) students, and weakest for Maori (RR = 1.74). Adolescent smoking was also positively associated with pocket money amount and living in a home where people smoked. Two thirds of daily smoking could be explained by the combined exposure to one or more of the following factors: parental smoking, pocket money >5 dollars per week, and smoking in the house.
Conclusions: Parental behaviour is a key determinant of smoking by New Zealand adolescents. Efforts that target the role of parents should be pursued, such as health promotion strategies that advise parents about the possible benefits of banning smoking in the home, limiting pocket money, and not providing cigarettes to their children.