Lead investigator Darren Mays, an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said nicotine dependence involves strong cravings to smoke, which results in the need for more nicotine to feel the same effect. Without nicotine, the smoker will feel withdrawal of the drug.
The study involved 400 parents and their participating adolescent children ages 12-17 who were interviewed at the beginning and end of the study and after one year and five years later.
Mays and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brown University Medical School said the findings suggested parental smoking cessation early in a child's life might be critical to prevent habitual smoking in the next generation.
The study, scheduled to be published in the journal Pediatrics, found the more years a child was exposed to a parent's nicotine-dependent smoking -- using American Psychiatric Association criteria -- the greater the risk a teen would start smoking or experimenting with cigarettes.
"We believe social learning plays an important role in intergenerational smoking," Mays said in a statement.
"If social learning is key, then children can also learn from a parent who smokes that it is possible -- and wise -- to quit."
The findings suggested parents quitting smoking early in their children's lives might be critical to prevent another generation smoking, Hays said.