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New CDC Study Finds Growing Use of Smokeless Tobacco by High School Athletes, Shows Need to Make Baseball Tobacco-Free

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
September 03, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – A study published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides compelling new evidence to get smokeless tobacco out of baseball once and for all and set the right example for kids, especially young athletes.

According to the new report, high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes (11.1 percent compared to 5.9 percent in 2013), and smokeless tobacco use among athletes increased from 2001 to 2013 (from 10 percent to 11.1 percent), even as smoking rates dropped significantly. Among male high school athletes, smokeless tobacco use is particularly alarming at 17.4 percent in 2013.

These trends are no accident. The harmful example set by Major League baseball players who use smokeless tobacco contributes directly to this problem, as does tobacco marketing that tells teenage boys they can’t be real men unless they chew or dip.

Taking tobacco out of baseball will save lives by reducing the number of young people who begin to use smokeless tobacco because they followed the example of the players they idolize. Professional athletes are role models for impressionable youth. When baseball stars use tobacco, the kids who look up to them are much more likely to do so as well.

This report supports our call to prohibit all tobacco use by players, other personnel and fans throughout baseball venues, including Major League stadiums. As the CDC’s press release notes, such action “might help make smokeless tobacco use less socially acceptable and reduce its use among student athletes.”

San Francisco and Boston have taken historic action to break the harmful link between tobacco and baseball by prohibiting use of all tobacco at baseball stadiums. These laws will take effect before the 2016 baseball season begins. We urge all of Major League Baseball to follow their lead.

Health authorities have found that smokeless tobacco use is hazardous to health and can lead to nicotine addiction. Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer – as well as other serious health problems such as gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.

The study was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and is based on data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey. It can be found at