Characteristics of highly physically active smokers in a population of young adult military recruits


A substantial number of cigarette smokers are thought to engage in regular exercise. It is unclear why individuals who engage in a health-promoting activity such as exercising would simultaneously engage in a health-damaging behavior like smoking. Two possibilities are that (1) exercise serves as a "harm reduction" strategy to lessen the negative effects of smoking, or (2) that among weight conscious individuals, exercise and smoking are both used as weight control strategies. To examine these issues, smoking status, physical activity level, weight concerns, and several additional health behaviors and attitudes were assessed by questionnaire in a population of United States Air Force recruits (n=32,144). Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to compare characteristics of highly physically active smokers with both highly physically active never-smokers, and less active smokers. A substantial proportion of smokers reported being highly physically active (15.8%), although this proportion was significantly higher for never-smokers (22.7%). Active smokers were similar to active never-smokers across several health behaviors and attitudes, including diet, seatbelt use, and attitudes toward illegal drugs and condom use. Compared to less active smokers, active smokers consumed more fruits and vegetables, worried less about their weight, were less nicotine dependent, and had greater previous success at quitting smoking. These findings indicate that a substantial proportion of highly physically active young adults are regular cigarette smokers. Based on findings regarding general health behaviors and smoking history, this group may be particularly amenable to smoking cessation efforts. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Addictive Behaviors