Childhood Trauma Can Cause Girls To Smoke

By Amir Khan on July 13, 2012 8:17 AM EDT

Smoking
Adverse childhood experiences (ACE's) and childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on our lives, and according to a new study, published in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, they could have an effect on whether girls take up smoking. (Photo: Reuters)

Adverse childhood experiences (ACE's) and childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on our lives, and according to a new study, published in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, they could have an effect on whether girls take up smoking.

Childhood trauma and ACE's range from emotional, physical and sexual abuse to being neglected and living in a dysfunctional household. In one of the largest studies ever conducted, more than 60 percent of adults reported at least one ACE.

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Researchers wanted to better understand how psychological distress that comes from ACEs raises the risk for smoking. Even after adjusting for other factors that would raise their risk for smoking, researchers found that study participants, particularly females, who were physically or emotionally abused were 1.4 times more likely to smoke.

"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," Dr. Tara Strine, study author, said in a statement. " 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."

However, the risk only applied for women, which means men may be coping with ACE's and childhood trauma in a different way, researchers 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," Strine said in a statement. "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."

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