Childhood abuse and risk of smoking onset
- 1Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA
- 2Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
- Correspondence to: Dr B L Harlow Obstetrics and Gynecology Epidemiology Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 221 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA;
- Accepted 29 July 2003
Study objective: To determine the association between childhood abuse and becoming a smoker.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Boston, Massachusetts.
Participants: 722 women aged 36–45 years who completed the baseline questionnaire for the Harvard study of moods and cycles and the survey of interpersonal relationships.
Main results: Women who experienced either physical or sexual abuse as a child were 40% more likely to begin smoking compared with women with no history of abuse (95% CI 1.0 to 2.0). Virtually all of this association was confined to sexual abuse (OR = 2.2, 95% CI 1.1 to 4.3) as compared with physical abuse (OR = 0.7, 95% CI 0.7 to 1.6). However, the joint effect of experiencing both physical and sexual abuse as a child led to a 3.5-fold increase in the likelihood of becoming a smoker (95% CI 1.3 to 9.4) compared with women who did not experience any childhood abuse after adjustment for religion, social class, and poverty.
Conclusions: Women who experience childhood abuse, even in the absence of depression, are at increased risk of becoming cigarette smokers.
Funding: supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health: R 01-MH50013 and R 01-MH577351.
Conflicts of interest: none declared.