Smokeless Tobacco And Young Athletes

(BLOOMINGTON) – Youth sports have the potential to be a positive, lifelong influence on children and teens. They promote regular physical activity and teamwork, but efforts need to be made to decrease the popularity of tobacco products for these youths.

“Nicotine affects athletic performance in a variety of ways,” said IU Health Community Health Tobacco Prevention Coordinator Patricia Colon, MHP, CHES. “It greatly affects the lungs, reducing oxygen available for muscles during sports and causing shortness of breath. Athletes may also be affected by not being able to run as fast or as far.”

Even with these negative effects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that reported past 30-day use of smokeless tobacco among athletes increased from 10% in 2001 to 11.1% in 2013.

Family members and coaches need to recognize their influence with young people and make positive change by choosing to not use products around players and reminding them how important it is to remain tobacco-free.

“Young people may be more likely to relate to messages about the immediate effects of tobacco use rather than to long-term effects,” said Colon.

The CDC suggests that a tobacco-free policy should be enforced for players, coaches, referees, and family members during all practices, games, and competitions. It may even be a good idea to partner with local tobacco prevention programs. The Tobacco Free Coalition of Monroe County has free resources to assist in creating policy change.

Share tobacco cessation resources with athletes who may be struggling with tobacco use, including the Indiana Tobacco Quitline phone number (1-800-QUIT-NOW).

Services are offered to individuals 13 and older. Individuals can also search and enter their zip code to find local resources.

The Tobacco Free Coalition can be reached at 812-353-5811.