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34 Health Groups Urge MLB Players to Set Right Example for Kids By Making Baseball Tobacco-Free, Once and for All

March 31, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – With the start of the 2016 Major League Baseball season just three days away, 34 leading public health and medical groups today urged MLB and its players to set the right example for kids and end smokeless tobacco use at all major league ballparks once and for all.

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.

“Our organizations are committed to advocating for these ordinances city by city until all of Major League Baseball is tobacco-free,” the health groups wrote in a letter sent today to Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). “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.

Here is a list of groups signing the letter:

Academy of General Dentistry
Action on Smoking and Health
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for Respiratory Care
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American College of Cardiology
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
American Medical Association
American Public Health Association
American School Health Association
American Society of Clinical Oncology
Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights
Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership
Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund
ClearWay Minnesota
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America
Eta Sigma Gamma | National Health Education Honorary
March of Dimes
National African American Tobacco Prevention Network
National Latino Alliance for Health Equity
Oncology Nursing Society
Oral Health America
Prevention Institute
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Society for Public Health Education
The Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Trust for America’s Health
Truth Initiative