Study: Teens Who Play Team Sports More Likely to Vape, Less Likely to Smoke

Use of e-cigarettes, known as vaping, increases respiratory problems similarly to cigarette smoking, and there have been vaping related deaths among teens in recent years.

A study, “Sports Team Participation and Vaping among High School Students: 2015-2019,” in the January 2023 Pediatrics (published online Dec. 12) found that vaping remains popular among teenagers, particularly those on competitive sports teams, who generally make healthier choices.

Researchers analyzed survey responses of 30,762 students in 9th through 12th grades over three years (2015/2017/2019) from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, including 16,790 sports team participants. The survey showed that sports team participation was associated with lower odds of cigarette use but higher odds of vaping. However, student athletes were less likely to smoke or vape frequently.

Studies have shown that youth on sports teams tend to make healthier choices, like eating healthy foods and not smoking, but research also shows that teens seem to think that vaping isn’t as bad as smoking. For example, in the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 73% of U.S. adolescents surveyed responded that they believed that vaping was less harmful than cigarettes and 47% believed that vaping is less addictive.

Researchers concluded that aggressive efforts must be taken to educate student athletes and all teenagers about the health risks of vaping, and that more research is needed to determine why student athletes are vaping more than their peers.