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Teen Athletes Continue Tobacco Use, Despite Severe Consequences


March 10, 2006, Baltimore, Maryland…Tobacco use among junior and senior high school student athletes, especially boys, continues to be a serious health risk, despite vigorous efforts to educate them—and their coaches—about the oral lesions that can result.

Reporting today during the 83rd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research, convening at the Baltimore Convention Center, a research group from the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry in Jackson presented findings from a statewide survey of 1600 coaches from public and private schools, and a random sample of every fifth student (over 700 results), on tobacco use, specifically, demographics, the students’ participation in sports, personal tobacco use, the coaches’ tobacco use, and the students’ perception of their coaches’ attitudes toward tobacco.

Almost 40% of the students who had ever used tobacco had an oral lesion, and this finding was strongest for smokeless tobacco users. Tobacco use was much more prevalent among male athletes. More Caucasian than African-American athletes used tobacco, and tobacco use increased from zero in grade 6 to 22.7% in grade 12. While 91% of coaches were willing to tell athletes not to smoke, only 78% were willing to tell them not to use smokeless tobacco, and 88% of the African- American coaches were willing to get training to help youth quit using smokeless tobacco, compared with 75% of Caucasian coaches.

The researchers concluded that: tobacco use is a marker for other poor oral health behavior (e.g., alcohol use) that may increase students’ risk of developing oral lesions, and oral health care providers should perform routine oral screenings in this group; and students’ attitudes toward tobacco use are affected by their perception of their coaches’ attitudes, beliefs, and practices, suggesting a target for education and intervention.

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This is a summary of abstracts #350, 351, and 352, by Drs. C. Belknap, K. Hunt, and B. Martin of the University of Mississippi, Jackson, being presented at Noon, 12:15 p.m., and 12:30 p.m., respectively, in Room 342 of the Baltimore Convention Center, during the 83rd General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.


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