Childhood Abuse & Adult Smoking

Smoking cessation efforts may be more effective if childhood trauma is factored in

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Researchers have found a link between childhood trauma in girls and becoming a smoker later in life.  The same link could not be found with male smokers.

A recent study suggests women may smoke due to adverse childhood experiences.

Smoking prevention may be most effective in light of this information in order to shape quit-smoking programs to deal with smoker’s childhood trauma.

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Tara Strine, PhD, MPH, led a study to investigate the link between adult female smoking habits and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Using data from the Kaiser-Permanente healthcare system, in California, the study evaluated smoking patterns and childhood trauma incidence from 7,210 San Diego residents in 1997.

The team of researchers discovered no link between smoking and ACEs in men.

Dr. Strine said, “Since ACEs increase the risk of psychological distress for both men and women, it seemed intuitive that an individual experiencing an ACE will be more likely to be a tobacco cigarette smoker.”

“However, in our study, ACEs only increased the risk of smoking among women. Given this, men who have experienced childhood trauma may have different coping mechanisms than their female counterparts.”

The study found that in women, 21 percent of smokers were emotionally abused, 16 percent were physically abused, 15 percent were neglected and 10 percent had divorced parents.

Dr. Strine said, “Our results show that, among women, an underlying mechanism that links ACEs to adult smoking is psychological distress, particularly among those who have suffered emotional or physical abuse or physical neglect as a child.”

“These findings suggest that current smoking cessation campaigns and strategies may benefit from understanding the potential relationship between childhood trauma and subsequent psychological distress on the role of smoking particularly in women”

These findings could help influence smoking prevention efforts to include a better understanding of underlying motivation behind smoking.

This study was published in the July issue Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, And Policy.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 22, 2012
Last Updated:
February 21, 2013