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Chicago Baseball Becomes Tobacco-Free; Wrigley Game Tomorrow is City’s Historic First

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 14, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tomorrow afternoon, historic Wrigley Field will witness a new milestone: Chicago’s first tobacco-free Major League Baseball game. With Chicago – home to two storied teams – joining the growing list of tobacco-free baseball cities, it’s time for Major League Baseball and its players to set the right example for our kids and promptly agree to prohibit smokeless tobacco use at all Major League ballparks. As more and more Major League cities becoming tobacco-free, the only question is when all baseball will become tobacco-free.

Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product. Chicago is sending the right message that baseball players are role models for our nation’s youth and that chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture.

Chicago becomes the fifth Major League city to implement a law making its baseball stadiums tobacco-free, joining San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles. 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. Similar legislation is under consideration in Washington, D.C., Toronto and the state of Minnesota. (The White Sox will play their first tobacco-free game at U.S. Cellular Field next Thursday, July 21, against the Detroit Tigers.)

In March, the Chicago City Council approved an ordinance to eliminate smokeless tobacco use in professional and amateur baseball and other sporting events – including Wrigley and U.S. Cellular. The law officially took effect on Tuesday, July 12. We applaud Alderman Edward Burke for championing this law and for his efforts to protect the health of our children. We also applaud Sen. Richard Durbin for his leadership in advocating for tobacco-free baseball.

The Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign, a coalition of public health and medical organizations, has advocated for tobacco-free baseball. Other key facts in support of the campaign include:

  • 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 the message that teen boys cannot be real men unless they chew. The link between baseball and chewing tobacco reinforces this message.
  • Baseball stadiums 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. These measures do not affect what players can do off the field in their personal lives, although they are encouraged to quit using tobacco for their own health.