Men’s Smoking Behavior across the Transition to Fatherhood

Matthias Pollmann-Schult, Magdeburg University

The smoking behavior of mothers is well documented. Ample research shows that women during pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce their tobacco consumption because the exposure of nicotine in the first months of life increases the risk of serious illnesses. Fathers’ smoking behavior, in contrast, is largely under-examined despite research showing that fathers’ smoking has adverse health outcomes in children as well, as increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and other respiratory conditions. Examining fathers smoking is also important, because the smoking behavior of partners is inter-related. Since mothers who have smoking partners are less likely to quit smoking than other mothers, knowledge about fathers’ smoking can facilitate understanding the smoking behavior of mothers.

This study is one of the first to examine changes in men’s tobacco consumption across the transition to fatherhood. For the analysis, I employed data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), a nationally representative longitudinal sample that has been conducted annually since 1984. In the multivariate analysis, I estimated fixed-effects logit regression and linear regressions with cluster-robust standard errors. Smoking behavior is measured by smoking status (smoker vs. non-smoker) and the number of cigarette smoked per day among men who regularly smoke.

My study indicates that the transition to fatherhood has little effect on men’s smoking behavior. Young fathers are not more likely to quit smoking than childless men. However, fathers who continue smoking reduce their cigarette consumption, but this reduction is quite small, and diminishes in subsequent years. These findings suggest that anti-smoking programs should focus more strongly on the health behavior of fathers, who are often neglected by such programs. Because the smoking behavior of partners is inter-related, mothers might benefit as well from health programs addressing fathers’ smoking.


The smoking behavior of mothers is well documented. Ample research shows that women during pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce their tobacco consumption because the exposure of nicotine in the first months of life increases the risk of serious illnesses. Fathers’ smoking behavior, in contrast, is largely under-examined despite research showing that fathers’ smoking has adverse health outcomes in children as well, as increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and other respiratory conditions. Examining fathers smoking is also important, because the smoking behavior of partners is inter-related. Since mothers who have smoking partners are less likely to quit smoking than other mothers, knowledge about fathers’ smoking can facilitate understanding the smoking behavior of mothers.

This study is one of the first to examine changes in men’s tobacco consumption across the transition to fatherhood. For the analysis, I employed data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), a nationally representative longitudinal sample that has been conducted annually since 1984. The SOEP measured tobacco consumption in the years 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014. For this time period, the SOEP contains longitudinal data on 7,310 men in relationships aged 18 to 60. In the multivariate analysis, I estimated fixed-effects logit regression and linear regressions with cluster-robust standard errors. Smoking behavior is measured by smoking status (smoker vs. non-smoker) and the number of cigarette smoked per day among men who regularly smoke.

I build the regression models in two stages. First, I examine average changes in smoking behavior across the transition to fatherhood. The second set of models examines if and how the link between parenthood and men’ smoking behavior varies with the smoking status of their partner.

Model 1 in Table 1 shows that the transition to fatherhood does not trigger men to quit smoking: Men who become fathers are not more likely to stop smoking than childless men. My results also show that men’s smoking status is strongly linked to that of their partners. Men are significantly more likely to quit (or start) smoking when their partner quits (or starts) smoking. However, the transition to fatherhood affects the cigarette consumption of men who smoke (Model 2). The cigarette consumption of men who smoke decreases by 1.7 cigarettes per day after becoming a father. But when their oldest child reaches school age, fathers cigarette consumption rebounds to pre-fatherhood levels.

In the next step of analysis, I examine if fathers’ smoking behavior is linked to their partners smoking status. To do so, I test 10 variables indicating the different combinations of partners’ smoking status (yes/no) and age of the oldest child. The coefficients shown in Model 1 (Table 2) indicate that young fathers are more likely to stop smoking only if their partners quit smoking. Fathers whose partners never smoked or continue smoking across the transition to parenthood are not more likely to quit smoking than childless men. Examining the cigarette consumption among men who smoke indicates that both men with smoking and constantly non-smoking partners reduce their cigarette consumption by around 1.5 cigarettes per day after becoming fathers. The cigarette consumption of both groups, however, rebounds to pre-fatherhood levels in subsequent years. Fathers whose partners quit smoking reduce their cigarette consumption by 3.3 cigarettes, and also report a reduced cigarette consumption in the following years.

My study indicates that the transition to fatherhood has little effect on men’s smoking behavior. Young fathers are not more likely to quit smoking than childless men. However, fathers who continue smoking reduce their cigarette consumption, but this reduction is quite small, and diminishes in subsequent years. These findings suggest that anti-smoking programs should focus more strongly on the health behavior of fathers, who are often neglected by such programs. Because the smoking behavior of partners is inter-related, mothers might benefit as well from health programs addressing fathers’ smoking.

Presented in Session 1161: Health, Wellbeing, and Morbidity