Tobacco Use in Athletes. Part 1

Q: How prevalent is tobacco use in athletes?

A: Smoking is more prevalent in European athletes. The European society is more permissive and in denial about smoking. Most American athletes get the clear message that smoking, by changing the lungs’ ability to function, decreases the ability to perform well.

Q: Are American athletes more aware of the benefits of not smoking than the general public?

A: Athletes have always been more aware of their ability to function, so they realize early that it does not make sense to smoke. But, I must admit that if you go back to the 1950s and early 60s, you will see many athletic role models advertising cigarettes. The advertisements showed professional athletes smoking in the locker room. It’s amazing.

Q: When did attitudes toward smoking begin to change in the sports arena?

A: My own experience concerned coverage of a few NBA games early in my career – seeing athletes smoking in the locker rooms at half time and at the end of the game. Change began to take place in the late 1970s.

Today, smoking abstinence has become part of our culture. Obviously, a lot of coaches won’t tolerate smoking in any of their athletes, for any reason. Smoking cessation has actually had more success than has alcohol and drinking. An interesting point: the general decline in smoking dates back to the ban on permitting advertising of tobacco products on NCAA content.

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