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Knock Tobacco Out of the Park Campaign Urges MLB Make Baseball Tobacco-Free

May 6, 2016

The American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and American Medical Association are among the 45 public health and medical groups asking MLB and its players to set an example for kids and end smokeless tobacco use at all major league ballparks.

At the urging of the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City recently passed ordinances prohibiting smokeless tobacco use at sporting venues, including their major league stadiums. A statewide law in California will take effect before the 2017 season. Once all of these laws are implemented, one-third of major league stadiums will be tobacco-free, and other MLB cities are considering similar measures.

In a March 31 letter sent collectively from the health groups to MLB and the MLB Players Association, “Our organizations are committed to advocating for these ordinances city by city until all of Major League Baseball is tobacco-free. But we hope that will not be necessary. We strongly urge MLB and the MLBPA to realize the inevitability of tobacco-free baseball and to agree to a complete prohibition on smokeless tobacco use in all major league stadiums as part of the next collective bargaining agreement being negotiated this year.”

The letter further states, “Smokeless tobacco use by MLB players endangers the health of impressionable youth who follow their lead, as well as the players themselves. It sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch baseball and see their favorite players and managers using tobacco.”

Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the letter notes that 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 particularly alarming at 17.4 percent in 2013.

Public health experts – including the CDC, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization – have all concluded that smokeless tobacco use is dangerous. Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer. The product also causes nicotine addiction and other serious health problems like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.

Adding to the challenge, smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent more than $500 million on marketing in 2013 (the most recent data available), driving home their message that teen boys cannot be real men unless they chew.

The letter points out that prohibiting tobacco use within baseball stadiums does not affect what players do off the field in their personal lives, although they are encouraged to quit using tobacco for their own health. “Baseball stadiums, however, are workplaces and public places. It is entirely appropriate to restrict the use of a harmful substance in such a setting. While players are on the job, they have a responsibility to set the right example for kids,” the letter states.

For more information, visit http://tobaccofreebaseball.org.