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Cigarette smoking in the adolescent dance population

M. Virginia Wilmerding, Bonnie Robson, Angela Book
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 17 Number 3: Page 116 (September 2002)

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Abstract: Cigarette smoking continues to be a major international health problem that affects adolescents. Most adult smokers report their first contact with smoking occurring before the age of 18 years. Research has established figures of initiation rates to be as low as 5% and as high as 31%, with the male samples consistently smoking at a slightly higher rate than the female samples. This was a prospective study using a questionnaire to sample 397 preprofessional dance students. Participants averaged 16 years of age, and 90% were female. Nearly one third of the dancers who responded identified that they were occasional or regular smokers. Dancers who smoked even occasionally had a higher injury rate and lower overall health. They displayed a higher rate of comorbid behaviors associated with eating disorders, such as laxative use, diet pill use, and vomiting. Their rates of alcohol and illegal drug use were statistically higher than those of their non-smoking cohorts. Finally, nearly two thirds of the smokers reported that they trained with a teacher who was also a smoker. This study suggests that smoking has adverse effects on dancers, including increased injury rate, increased comorbid behaviors, and other health issues. In the world of dance, the teacher, choreographer, or director acts as a role model to students and, as such, has a particularly sensitive position in the choices the adolescent dancer makes. Effective prevention must go beyond informing dancers of health risks and must include the experience of a healthy role model.

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