According to a new study, even children as young as 2 years old are influenced by whether their parents smoke and drink alcohol.
It was found that when 2 to 6 year-olds children were asked to "shop" for groceries for a hungry doll, they were four times more likely to choose cigarettes if their parents smoked, and three times more likely to pick wine or beer if their parents drank at least once a month.
The study also found that children who viewed PG-13 or R-rated movies were five times more likely to choose wine or beer.
Among the 120 children in the study, 28 percent bought cigarettes and 62 percent purchased alcohol, among the average of 17 products chosen.
Madeline Dalton of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who led the study, says that the children's play behavior suggests that they are far more attentive to the use and enjoyment of alcohol and tobacco than was supposed.
They have well-established expectations about how cigarettes and alcohol fit into social settings.
Apparently several children were also highly aware of various cigarette brands, and one 6-year-old boy was able to identify the brand of cigarettes he was buying as Marlboros but could not however identify the brand of his favorite cereal, says Dalton.
The study is published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.