It was the first time that I had ever been to a sporting event. My little brother had gotten into the soccer team for the first time and I was so excited to see him on the field. The beaming of the sun on the bleachers was hot enough to fry an egg but the wind offered a refreshing breeze that eased the heat. The pleasant air was great until I could smell the all too familiar scent of a burning cigarette from the man sitting a few feet away from me on the bleachers. My father had been an avid smoker while growing up and his constant smoking made it hard to be around him due to my asthma. I tried to move my seat in hopes of escaping the tobacco smoke, but I could still feel the smoke infiltrating my lungs. I asked the nearby staff if they could get him to stop smoking, but there was nothing done and the man continued to smoke. Each one of my breaths got smaller and I knew that this was not going to end well for me. In the end, I had to leave the game and I couldn’t be there for my little brother because someone did not want to stop smoking.
You never know who shows up to your games. Your events may be outside but this does not eliminate the risks of smoke affecting your visitors, staff, players, and yourself. Nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke from primary users who smoke nearby. Nonsmokers could have asthma, be quitting tobacco, or have children or infants with them and are at a higher risk of getting triggered by tobacco smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke in infants or children can cause sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma attacks (1).
Smoking doesn’t stop at those who show up to your events and also involves your players. In 2018, the US Surgeon General declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. In Duval County, 1 in 4 youths ages 11 - 17 have ever tried using vapes or other tobacco products. All athletes, including youth sports athletes, can be affected by tobacco products and its harmful outcomes. Players who smoke show decreased athletic performance because of the effect smoke has on the lungs which reduce oxygen available for muscles used during sports (2). Athletes that smoke have been seen to run slower and can’t run as far as they could have without smoking (2). It is crucial to protect the health of your audience and your team but how can you do that?
The WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) concluded that the best way to adequately keep people protected from secondhand smoke is through 100% smoke-free environments (3). They also found that smoke-free policies do not harm businesses but rather are popular (3). Smoke-free environments are also used as signs to denormalize tobacco use in the youth (4). Contact your organization to learn more about if they have any smoke-free policies or advocate for a smoke-free policy to be implemented. Tobacco Free Jacksonville could also support your efforts in creating smoke-free environments.
(1) Tsai, J., Homa, D., Gentzke, A., Mahoney, M., Sharapova, S., & Sosnoff, C. (2018). Exposure to secondhand smoke among nonsmokers - United States, 1988–2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6748a3.htm
(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). You(TH) and tobacco. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/youth/information-sheet/index.htm#:~:text=Tobacco%20and%20Athletic%20Performance&text=Smoking%20can%20wreck%20lungs%20and,far%2C%20affecting%20overall%20athletic%20performance.
(3) World Health Organization. (2022). Tobacco. World Health Organization. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco
(4) Daube, M., & White, S. (2018). Smoke-free policies. Circulation. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.035337