On Opening Day 2016: No More Chew in Baseball Stadiums
Baseball season is here! And at some stadiums you may notice something new: the wads of chewing tobacco that players stuffed in their cheeks will be a thing of the past. This change for the better has been the result of Knock Tobacco Out of the Park, a campaign that the American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other partners have undertaken to rid our nation’s pastime of tobacco use.
The effort to Knock Tobacco Out of the Park began in 2011 when our organizations encouraged Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to eliminate tobacco use in major league baseball stadiums as part of their collective bargaining agreement. We achieved partial success—new restrictions on smokeless tobacco use were put in place.
However, our goal is still to end tobacco use in major league baseball—just as MLB ended it in the minor leagues. Fast forward to 2015: Cities began to pass local laws prohibiting the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, in their baseball stadiums.
On Opening Day 2016, fans attending games in several iconic baseball cities—Boston, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco—will no longer see tobacco used on the field or in dugouts. And after the 2016 All-Star break, Chicago will join the tobacco-free ranks.
Why is it important to end tobacco use in baseball stadiums? The answer is easy: MLB players have a major effect on whether our kids, especially young boys, start using smokeless tobacco. Quite simply, MLB players are role models for our youth—and high school athletes follow their lead. According to a September 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes, and smokeless tobacco use among athletes increased more than 11 percent from 2001 to 2013, even as smoking rates dropped significantly. Among male high school athletes, smokeless tobacco use is alarmingly high at 17.4 percent in 2013.
Smokeless tobacco use is far from safe and has been found to cause oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer as well as nicotine addiction and other serious health problems like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions. In addition, smokeless tobacco companies spent $503.2 million on marketing their products in 2013 (the most recent data available), much of it appealing to children.
With the success at getting local laws passed in a number of cities, the Lung Association and its partners have also sent another letter to the MLB and MLBPA asking them to once again consider ending all tobacco use within baseball facilities in their next collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations start soon and if it is not ultimately included, we are committed to going city by city if necessary to remove tobacco use from baseball once and for all. Batter up!
You can learn more about the effort to get tobacco use out of baseball at tobaccofreebaseball.org.