The Long Plume of Childhood: Cigarette Smoking throughout the Life Course and Adult Mortality
Joseph T. Lariscy, University of Texas at Austin
Individuals are exposed to the harmful substances in cigarette smoke throughout the life course. Yet, demographic studies of health consequences of smoking generally measure only adult smoking status without examining the enduring effect of early-life smoking. Likewise, life course studies of the influence of childhood conditions on adult health generally focus on childhood socioeconomic status and health but ignore cigarette use. I investigate the effects of childhood and adulthood smoking on racial/ethnic/nativity and sex differentials in adult mortality using the 1997-2006 National Health Interview Survey-Linked Mortality Files. Smoking initiation in childhood or adolescence contributes additional mortality risk for current smokers relative to never smokers. Hispanics’ lower smoking prevalence and later initiation reduce their mortality risk relative to whites. Findings reinforce the benefits of interventions designed to eliminate or delay smoking initiation among children and adolescents and the salience of early-life smoking as a childhood circumstance that deteriorates later-life health.