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Health Groups Laud Councilmember Alexander for Leading the Effort to Make Baseball Tobacco-Free in Nation’s Capital

April 05, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Washington Nationals’ baseball home opener just two days away, public health groups applauded Washington, D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander for introducing legislation today to set the right example for kids and end smokeless tobacco use at all sports venues within the city – including Nationals Park. Washington, D.C. would join five Major League cities and the state of California in making baseball tobacco-free.

Alexander is chair of the council’s Committee on Health and Human Services, and her legislation will prohibit the use of tobacco products – including smokeless tobacco like chew, dip and snuff – at all organized sporting events in our nation’s capital. Her action follows Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) sending letters to Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB players association yesterday calling for a prohibition on smokeless tobacco in baseball. Last week, 34 leading public health and medical groups called on players and management to do so as well.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in D.C., and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network issued the following statement:

'We applaud Councilmember Alexander for her leadership on the issue and for putting the health and future of our kids first. Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product. Today’s announcement keeps the momentum firmly on our side to finally get tobacco out of baseball for kids, the players and the future. Today’s action in Washington, D.C. will help achieve our goal of making the next generation tobacco-free.

We know that 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.

Baseball stadiums are workplaces and public places, and when players are on the job, they have a responsibility to set the right example for kids. This effort is not about what players want to do on their own time in their personal lives, though we’d certainly encourage them to quit all tobacco use. But as public figures and idols to so many youth in this country, it’s time players stepped up to the plate – completely tobacco-free.'

Other key facts about the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign:

  • At the urging of the campaign, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City have 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.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 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.
  • 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.