Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare tobacco use among high school male athletes with their nonathlete counterparts. We hypothesized that there was an inverse correlation between the intensity level of the sport and frequency of tobacco use.
Methods: Students were surveyed at seven high schools in northwest Louisiana using a 109-item questionnaire. Of the 1,200 males tested, 83% participated in one or more sports. The mean age was 15.8, and mean grade level was 10th. Sixty-seven percent were white, 27% African-American (AA), and 6% other.
Results: Forty-one percent of the adolescent males tested were one or more tobacco products, 31% reported cigarette smoking, 21% chewed tobacco, and 18% used snuff. Eleven percent reported using all three tobacco products. Race was a significant determinant of tobacco use, with whites being more likely to use each of the three tobacco products (P < .001). Medium- and high-intensity athletes were significantly (P < .01) less likely to be heavy smokers than athletes participating in low-intensity sports and nonathletes. However, athletes of each intensity sport used chewing tobacco and snuff at significantly higher rates (P < .001) than nonathletes. When race and grade point average were controlled, sports intensity was a significant predictor of smokeless tobacco use but not overall smoking behavior. Both AA and white high school male athletes at all sport intensity levels were using chewing tobacco and snuff at a rate higher at least 1.5 times that of their nonathlete counterparts.
Conclusions: In our study, high school males' sports participation was a predictor of smokeless tobacco use but not overall smoking behavior. Although the probability of AA high school athletes using smokeless tobacco was low compared to whites, the pattern of use was similar across intensity levels of sports.