Tobacco Limits in Major League Baseball Contract a Victory for Players and Kids' Health

MLB and players' union take historic first steps to get tobacco out of the ballgame

Statement of the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park Coalition

(November 22, 2011)

The limits on smokeless tobacco use included in the new Major League Baseball (MLB) contract represent an historic first step to protect the health of big-league players and millions of young fans who look up to them.

Under the agreement that MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association have announced, 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. The restrictions will become effective in the five-year contract to take effect in 2012; violators are subject to discipline.

We continue to support a complete prohibition on tobacco use at games and on camera. Still, this 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 is time to break this unhealthy addiction.

We urge individual players to go further than the agreement, and completely eliminate their use of smokeless tobacco at games.

At a time when the tobacco industry is spending record sums to promote smokeless products and hook a new generation of youth, we are pleased that Major League Baseball and big-league players will join forces on a nationwide public service campaign on tobacco use that is aimed at youth, and particularly at young baseball players. Members of the MLBPA are role models for young fans, and their participation in this outreach program will be truly valuable.

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

We applaud Commissioner Bud Selig and Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLBPA, for their leadership in developing this important plan to protect players' health and the well-being of countless kids.

We also applaud the members of Congress who have spoken out and provided important leadership on this issue, including Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

The new tobacco limits also are the result of hard work by a broad, national coalition of supporters and fans who came together to bring this issue to public attention and press for a tobacco prohibition in the contract.

The campaign to Knock Tobacco Out of the Park began last November with 10 major medical and public health groups including Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Dental Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, Legacy, Oral Health America and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The coalition grew over the course of the baseball season 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.

We are gratified that baseball listened, and we look forward to the 2012 season.