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Cigarette, waterpipe, and electronic cigarette use among college fraternity and sorority members and athletes in the United States

While cigarette smoking has decreased in the young adult population, waterpipe tobacco smoking and electronic cigarette use has been shown to have increased. Fraternity and sorority members have also shown to be at an additional increased risk for substance use including tobacco use. The current study looks at association between fraternity and sorority members along with college athletes with cigarette smoking, waterpipe tobacco smoking, and electronic cigarette use in undergraduate students.

Student data was collected from the National College Health Assessment-II which included undergraduate students across the United states. The sample size included 47,821 students and they answered questions about cigarette, e-cigarette, and tobacco from a waterpipe use. The survey asked about membership in fraternities or sororities along with athletic status including “Varsity,” “Club Sports,” or “Intramural” athletics. Out of the participants, 12.4% reported current membership in fraternity or sorority and 8-18.9% participated in some form of athletics. 9.5% reported cigarette smoking and it was more common in older participants along with those who identified as male or nonbinary.

14.6% of Greek life members reported cigarette smoking with 6.2% of Varsity athletes reporting cigarette smoking. Waterpipe use had the lowest reported use overall, but Greek life members had the highest use. For electronic cigarette use, Greek life members reported the highest use at 8.1%. Based on these findings, fraternity and sorority members were at the highest risk for any type of tobacco use and varsity athletes may have additional protection against use. This information is important for prevention and intervention services provided on college campuses and may suggest a need for targeted services for members across campus participating in Greek life. 

Take Away: While cigarette smoking has decreased in the young adult population, waterpipe tobacco smoking and electronic cigarette use has increased. The current study looks at association between fraternity/sorority members and college athlete’s tobacco use. 47,821 student participants were use taking data from the National College Health Assessment-II. Overall, the study showed that fraternity and sorority members were at the highest risk among college students for any type of tobacco use and that varsity athletes may have additional protection against tobacco use. This information is important for prevention and intervention service provided on college campuses. These findings may suggest a need for targeted services for members across campus participating in Greek life. 

Soule, E. K., Rossheim, M. E., Cavazos, T. C., Bode, K., & Desrosiers, A. C. (2019). Cigarette, waterpipe, and electronic cigarette use among college fraternity and sorority members and athletes in the United States. Journal of American College Health, 1–7. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2019.1680555

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