For parents who smoke, it appears that the familiar adage of “Do as I say, not as I do” may fall on deaf ears for their teen children.

According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the children of nicotine-dependent smokers are three times more likely to pick up their first cigarette, and more than twice as likely to become addicted, than the kids of parents who never smoked.

Sifting through eight years worth of data created by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2004 to 2012), an annual poll conducted on about 70,000 randomly selected individuals aged 12 and older, the authors analyzed the responses of 35,000 parent-adolescent pairs in order to determine what, if any, connections there were between the parent’s smoking habits and their children’s (ages 12 to 17).

For the children of never-smokers, only 13 percent reported trying at least one cigarette in their lifetime, compared to 38 percent for the children of smokers. Similarly, only 5 percent of the former group reported a nicotine addiction, compared to 15 percent of the latter.

The effect is even more profound among teen daughters, who were nearly four times more likely to begin smoking, though only when their mothers were nicotine-dependent, not their fathers. Sons were equally likely to pick up smoking regardless of which parent smoked.

The link remained nearly as strong when factors like alcohol and illicit drug use were accounted for, though the authors found that other variables like marital status, parental education, and mental health status increased the risk of teen smoking. Due to the nature of the study, they were unable to look at the possible connections between smoking among peers, both parents smoking, or exposure to advertising to teen smoking rates.

While much of the effect can be explained by children simply aping their parents’ current habits, the fact that former smokers also had children who were more likely to become hooked suggests a possible genetic predisposition to nicotine addiction.

“Most smokers start smoking when they are teenagers. As this study shows, parents are a powerful influence," said lead author Dr. Denise Kandel, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences in Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the Mailman School of Public Health, in a statement. "To prevent teens from starting to smoke and becoming addicted to tobacco, we need to do a better job of helping parents quit smoking."

According to Kandel, also a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, one possible intervention may be encouraging pediatricians to communicate with smoking parents early on in their children’s life.

Source: Kandel D, Griesler P, Hu M-C. Intergenerational Patterns of Smoking and Nicotine Dependence Among US Adolescents. American Journal of Public Health. 2015.