Is Vaping E-Cigarettes More Likely Among Active Adolescents?

During our last Webinar Wednesday’s we discussed the topic of Healthy Youth Lifestyle Behaviors, Substance Use & Other Risk Behaviors ( 

One of the findings I presented from an analysis of the latest (2019) Youth Risk Behavior Survey data on US high school adolescents was that youth meeting CDC’s recommendation of one-hour of physical activity every day were MORE likely to currently vape e-cigarettes, vape e-cigarettes frequently and vape daily (p’s =.008-.0003) than adolescents not as physically active. 

Is this a real difference? If so, what might explain it? 

A recently published study in Nicotine & Tobacco Research (2021) which examined how sport participation and activity levels among youth differ between e-cigarette users and smokers might give us a clue. 

Using Canadian data from 38977 grade 9 to 12 students who participated in Year 3 (2014–15) of the COMPASS study, researchers found e-cigarette users are more likely to participate in intramural, competitive, and team sports compared to non-users. 

Youth e-cigarette users are also more likely than non-users to meet the physical activity guidelines. 

In addition, youth e-cigarette users are less likely than non-users to be sedentary less than 2 h daily. 

The authors of this study concluded that e-cigarette users are more likely to engage in physical activity compared to no-e-cigarette users.  

Another study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2017) examined the association between involvement in competitive sport participation, e-cigarette use and traditional cigarette smoking among a nationally representative sample of 12th grade students (modal age of 18). 

This research found that adolescents who participated in competitive sport, particularly those involved in three or more sports during the past year, were less likely to engage in past 30-day traditional cigarette smoking and past 30-day dual traditional cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use when compared to their nonparticipating peers. 

However, no association was found between competitive sport participation and past 30-day e-cigarette use. 

The study also found that adolescents who participated in wrestling had higher odds of past 30-day traditional cigarette smoking, past 30-day e-cigarette use, and past 30-day dual traditional cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use when compared to their peers who did not participate in this sport during the past year. 

Additionally, adolescents who participated in baseball/softball had higher odds of past 30-day e-cigarette use only and past 30-day e-cigarette use only with no history of traditional cigarette smoking when compared to adolescents who did not participate in this sport during the past year. 

The researchers concluded that the lack of a negative association (and positive association within some sports) between e-cigarette use and involvement in competitive sports among 12th graders raises concerns regarding the use of e-cigarettes as a possible gateway to traditional cigarette smoking and other tobacco use among healthy segments of the adolescent population. 

To summarize, these two published studies indicate that physically active youth, particularly those engaged in sports, may be at greater risk for using e-cigarettes than less active/non-sports participating adolescents.  

In addition, it may be certain types of sporting activities, such as wrestling and baseball/softball, that exposes youth to greater e-cigarette use risk. 

The key implication is that coaches, teachers and parents working with youth sports should provide preventive messages to adolescents that vaping e-cigarettes are is safe and can harm athletic and other performance.  

As always, we recommend the use of existing wholistic preventive programs that integrate the prevention of substance use, including vaping e-cigarettes, with the promotion of lifestyle behaviors that promote the physical and mental well-being of youth including physical activity and sports, healthy nutrition, sleep and stress control. 

Learn more and sign-up for future free Prevention Plus Wellness webinars: 

Published study 1: 

Published study 2: 

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