Many American teens who are physically active are more likely to use electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes or vapes) compared to their less physically active peers, according to a new study published online in the journal Tobacco Use Insights.

The study led by researchers from the University of Georgia found high school students who reported being physically active had higher risks of using vaping products than those who were active only a day per week or less. In addition, they found the risks to rise to 11 percent for those whose physical activity lasted two to three days per week. Meanwhile, those who partook in four to five days per week of physical activity were at 23 percent increased risk.

Importantly, this study is the first to establish a link between physical activity levels and risks of vaping among a US-based population of students. It also identified physically active teens as a risky group to be primarily affected by the rising vaping rates.

Researchers believe that the rising popularity of these vape products among more active teens is most likely due to the false perception that vapes are a lot safer than traditional smoking. 

Whereas teens who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to shift to smoking cigarettes in the future—causing nicotine addiction. For this reason, e-cigarettes pose a huge threat to the health of future adolescents at large.

The research team worked to test the assumption that the use of vape products is positively linked with teens being more physically active.

For the study, the researchers culled data from the 2018 Georgia Student Health Survey 2.0. The survey contained self-reported data on the health status and health behaviors of over 362,933 high school students in Georgia from across 439 schools. Participants reported on how many days they smoked either e-cigars, juuls, vape pipes, vaping pens, e-hookahs, or hookah pens. They were also asked questions concerning their level of physical activity.

In the end, the researchers found about 7 percent of the high school students reported using only electronic vapor products for at least one day in the past 30 days. An additional 4 percent of these students reported as dual users (using both traditional cigarettes and vape products). While only about 1 percent reported smoking solely cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the researchers observed that male students were more likely to smoke either cigarettes or electronic vapor products when compared to their female peers. Their findings also showed that the prevalence rose with grades. In other words, smoking rates were higher among high school students in higher classes. 

More active students were less likely to smoke cigarettes only or in combination with vaping products, but were more likely to use only vape products.

Overall, this study adds to the growing body of research suggesting that teens that partake in sporting and physical activities are at a higher risk for e-cigarette use. For this reason, the study authors suggest younger people must serve as the major target population for early prevention methods. Particularly when drafting public health policies, interventions, and future research for use of vapes. 

In addition to that, the study highlights the need for educational programs and health promotion to discourage vape use and educate young ones about the dangers of using e-cigarettes. Also, the need to make sure its access in the market to young, physically active adolescents is limited.

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