It's Game Time - but not for Smokers

Tobacco smoking less common amongst multiple sport athletes

(RxWiki News) If your child’s an athlete there is a better chance he says “no” to cigarettes, a new study finds.

Adolescents are influenced by a variety of sources, including their teammates, and research released today suggests that the more sports a child plays, the less likely they are to smoke.

"Playing on any sports team is fun - call a coach today."

"This result suggests that peers on athletic teams influence the smoking behavior of others,” explains Kayo Fujimoto, Ph.D., assistant professor of behavioral sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Dr. Fujimoto analyzed data from 1,260 culturally diverse, middle-class sixth through eighth graders.  Fujimoto and her colleagues asked the students about their experiences with cigarettes as well as questions about their social cliques and their extracurricular activities.

The team used a house-created social networking framework to see if teams that had one player who smoked cigarettes were more likely to have multiple smokers.

The results affirmed this theory and also shed light on the reality of peer pressure. Youths who were around smokers were more likely to smoke themselves. Additionally, those who played one or no sports had greater odds of lighting up a cigarette than those who played two or three.

Dr. Fujimoto and her co-authors hope that school programs will target cigarette prevention. "Current guidelines recommend the use of peer leaders selected within the class to implement such programs," notes Fujimoto. "The findings of this study suggest that peer-led interactive programs should be expanded to include sports teams as well."

This study was published in the journal Child Development on February 8, 2012. There were no reports of conflicts or funding sources. 

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services sponsors a program in NJ schools called Teen Prevention Education Program, Teen PEP for short. High schools recruit peer-leaders and volunteers to help spread a voice of confidence for teens to say “no” when the time is right.

The program instills the principles of healthy decision-making within its students to re-teach the lessons to their peers, instigating growth in some of the student teachers. 

One of the peer educators from Roselle, NJ explains, “This program has molded me into an individual who I thought I would never become. Teen PEP is not just a typical health program, but it is a program that can change lives, and I am an individual who is an example of those words.”

Figures from the site indicate that students who partake in the program indicated a stronger aversion to risky behaviors, according to self-reports.  

Ask a teacher or school counselor about programs for you child in your area.

Review Date: 
February 8, 2012