Strike Three for Tobacco in MLB

(December 15, 2011)

In a victory for the health of players and millions of young fans who look up to them, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the players' union have taken the historic first steps to get tobacco out of the old ballgame.  Smokeless tobacco has long been a fixture of America’s pastime, but the new contract agreement, just accepted in November, will go a long way to sending this unhealthy habit to the showers.

Under the five-year contract that takes effect in 2012, big-league players, managers and coaches will no longer be able to carry a tobacco tin or package in their uniforms at games, or any time that fans are in the ballpark. They will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews, at autograph signings and other events where they meet fans, or at team-sponsored appearances.

“Young fans often do more than emulate their favorite player’s swing. They sometimes copy their personal habits as well,” said Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “These restrictions will help kids see players in a healthier light that doesn’t include tobacco.”

At a time when the tobacco industry is spending record sums to promote smokeless products and hook a new generation of youth, MLB and big-league players will also join forces on a nationwide public service campaign on tobacco use that is aimed at youth, and particularly at young baseball players.

The agreement also bolsters tobacco education programs for players, and creates a new MLBPA center on cessation to help players quit. The Lung Association and our partners in the public health community stand ready to assist the league, the union and any player who needs help in quitting tobacco use.

Last November, the American Lung Association joined with nine other major medical and public health groups to form the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park Coalition.  The coalition grew to include more than 200 supporters, including dozens of public officials around the country, youth baseball leagues, notable baseball figures, faith leaders, state and local health groups and others. Fans and advocates sent more than 35,000 messages to Major League Baseball, MLB teams and players, urging them to act.

On December 14, the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park Coalition sent a thank-you letter to Allen H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball; and Michael Weiner, Executive Director of Major League Baseball Players Association, for their leadership in limiting smokeless tobacco in baseball.

While the Lung Association continues to work towards completely ejecting smokeless tobacco from the ballpark, this agreement represents is significant progress. Baseball players have been using tobacco since the earliest days of the game. This agreement marks the first time that the league and the players have recognized it’s time to break this unhealthy addiction.

Need to learn more about tobacco and how to quit? The American Lung Association can help.