This week, New York took sports fans and players into new territory by banning smokeless tobacco in sports venues and recreational areas, including Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
The trailblazing ban was signed into law by mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday and includes not only chewing tobacco but also e-cigarettes, in the new extension of the ‘no smoking’ policy that is in effect in these public areas already.
The move is just part of a nationwide movement in the U.S to eliminate tobacco products in baseball, and it certainly must have had proponents of the campaign “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” cheering.
Powered by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Knock Tobacco Out of the Park states that 14.7 percent of high school boys (and 8.8 percent of all high school students) have reported current use of smokeless tobacco products. And baseball, they say, reinforces tobacco marketing.
But is it really that bad? In 2011, marketing and promotional expenditures for the top five smokeless tobacco companies totaled nearly $452 million, almost three times the amount the same companies spent in 1998.
So, yes, apparently.
While chewing tobacco may seem for some to be something out of the days of Babe Ruth, Knock Tobacco Out of the Park states that smokeless tobacco is still marketed heavily to young people through magazines that are read frequently by youth. This, coupled with the fact that some baseball players who act as role models for youth can be seen chewing tobacco regularly during games, is evidence that someone should be fighting back against tobacco companies to save the mouths and bodies of influenceable young people.
Facts say that smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer.
The use of smokeless tobacco is also associated with other delightful health problems such as lesions in the mouth and tooth decay.
But will the ban make much of a difference? Hopefully. Four other cities across the nation have already passed ordinances prohibiting smokeless tobacco use at their sporting venues, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago.
If all goes well, more will follow. California is currently making plans to put a similar statewide law in place in 2017. According to tobaccofreebaseball.org once all of these laws are implemented, one-third of all major league stadiums will be tobacco-free in the U.S
Said Drs. Howard Koh of the Boston Globe in 2015,
“For too long, the tobacco industry has normalized and glamorized products that cause drug dependence, disability, and death. Leveraging the prestige and appeal of baseball has been an essential part of that strategy. It’s time for baseball to start a new chapter that reclaims tobacco-free parks as the new norm.”
Most players are in support of the new rules and past players would likely hail the laws as a good thing.
Athletes such as Tony Gwynn, who suffered from cancer of a salivary gland that paralyzed his face and ultimately killed him, is a good example. Gwynn attributed his cancer to his use of dipping tobacco, a habit he’d had for over 25 years while playing baseball.
Gwynn played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball with the San Diego Padres, and is considered one of the best and most consistent hitters in the history of baseball.
For the future Gwynns, the fans and the memory of all great players who suffered, may baseball continue on its path towards good health and great leadership.