Parents’ efforts to scare their young teens into not smoking or drinking alcohol may all be in vain. A new study suggests that simply encouraging them to join a sports team or after-school club may be a more effective way of getting them to avoid these habits.

The study is based on information from a 2003 survey of more than 6,500 U.S. students between the ages of 10 and 14. The students were asked questions about their after school activities, HealthDay reports.   

It was found that more than half of the tweens involved in this survey played a team sport. Exactly 55.5 percent participated in a coached sport while a slighter lesser 55.4 percent participated in a non-coached sport a few times a week. Of those interviewed, 86 percent also participated in other school clubs. Half of the students were involved in an arts activity such as music, choir, dance, or band lesson. More than half of the students admitted to being involved in religious activities a few times a week.

Although it is not clear why, a student’s extracurricular activities are closely related to their likeliness of trying cigarettes and alcohol. “How children spend their time matters. Parents and guardians may think that tweens need less adult supervision when they are not in school. However, our research suggests that certain coached extracurricular activities can help prevent tween smoking and drinking," said Anna Adachi, lead author of the study, according to HealthDay.

Of all the activities, it was found that tweens who played a team sport under the supervision of a coach were the least likely to try smoking. Students involved with non-school clubs were the least likely to start drinking alcohol.

The information from this study can be used to help develop better tactics to encourage young teenagers to turn down cigarettes. According to information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is most commonly initiated and established during adolescence. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18. Each day in the Unities States, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette. By preventing young people from trying a their first cigarette at a young age, you are lowering their chances of ever becoming a smoker.

Unfortunately the study’s researchers also found that often teens are prevented from playing in organized sports due to the increasing emphasis on winning rather than simple participation. “This shift potentially shuts out tweens with fewer skills and/or lesser interest in facing the pressures associated with increased competition. I'd like to encourage communities and schools to explore the possibility of offering noncompetitive, affordable team sports with a coach," Adachi concluded.

Source: Adachi-Mejia AM, Chambers JJG, Li  Z, Sargent JD. The Relative Roles of Types of Extracurricular Activity on Smoking and Drinking Initiation Among Tweens. Academic Pediatrics. 2014.