Evidence suggests that maternal and offspring smoking behaviour is correlated. Little is known about the mechanisms through which this intergenerational transfer occurs. This paper explores the role of time preferences. Although time preference is likely to be heritable and correlated with health investments, its role in the intergenerational transmission of smoking has not been explored previously. This is the first paper to empirically test this. Data (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008) from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia are used. Estimates by using a pooled probit model show that there is not a direct effect of maternal time preference, measured in terms of financial planning horizon, on the likelihood that their offspring is a smoker. However, there is an indirect effect of maternal time preference. Sons of mothers that are smokers and have a shorter planning horizon are 6% more likely to smoke than if their mother had a longer planning horizon, and daughters of mothers that smoke with a shorter planning horizon are 7% more likely to smoke themselves than if their mother had a longer planning horizon. © 2013 The Authors. Health Economics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.