Cigarette use among high school athletes is going down, but the use of smokeless tobacco is going up.
That’s according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2001 and 2013, the percentage of all high school students who smoke tobacco products dropped, while the percentage who used smokeless products – like chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip – stayed the same. But among athletes, the share increased, and the more sports a student played, the more likely he or she was to use smokeless tobacco and the less likely he or she was to smoke.
The CDC says these trends might result from students being aware that smoking can hurt athletic performance, while finding smokeless tobacco to be harmless or socially acceptable. The tobacco industry’s marketing of smokeless products as an alternative to cigarettes in situations where smoking’s prohibited might also feed into these perceptions, and Major League Baseball doesn’t prohibit them, meaning young athletes are able to see their role models using them.
But the CDC says smokeless tobacco contains nicotine and can cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. It can also increase the risk of death from heart disease and stroke.
The CDC says implementing policies banning all tobacco use at public recreational facilities may help make smokeless tobacco less socially acceptable and reduce its use.