City Council unanimously votes to take smokeless tobacco out of baseball, including Dodger Stadium
Today the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted 14-0 to end the use of smokeless tobacco products at all baseball fields and other athletic venues in Los Angeles, both to set the right example for America’s youth and for the health of the players. As the Dodgers look to win the 2015 National League West Division, this move sends a simple and powerful message to kids: baseball and tobacco don’t mix.
The motion, introduced in June by Councilmember José Huizar (District 14) and supported by public health advocates, instructs the Los Angeles City Attorney to draft legislative language to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco at all sporting venues in the city. It is the latest victory for the “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign to promote tobacco-free baseball and reduce smokeless tobacco use among kids. Once finalized, the measure will apply to athletic venues at all levels within city limits, including Dodger Stadium, and will cover the players, fans and anyone in the entire venue.
“Today, the City of Los Angeles joins the ranks of San Francisco and Boston in what is becoming a national effort to knock tobacco out of the park,” said Councilmember Huizar. “Smokeless tobacco use in the great American pastime is way past its time. The time to act is now to save others, particularly our young people, from an extremely addictive and potentially deadly product.”
The proposed ordinance has the support of the Los Angeles Dodgers, an organization with a storied history of bringing positive changes to baseball that have had implications well outside the world of sports. Before the full City Council voted on the legislation today, the Dodgers issued a statement in full support of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the City of Los Angeles’ smokeless tobacco ordinance.
L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz seconded Councilmember Huizar’s motion.
“Baseball remains a prime gateway for smokeless tobacco and hooking young people in its use, and that's why this motion that we are so strongly supporting can make a big difference,” said Councilmember Koretz. “Our city should have no place for smokeless tobacco at our city stadiums, parks and venues, and especially not in our youth, school and park leagues played there.”
L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, Chairs the City’s Health, Mental Health and Education committee.
“Our parks and stadiums are places for creating healthy choices for the next generation, not for cancer-causing addictions,” said Councilmember Ryu. “Today’s successful vote allows for our children to live healthy and active lifestyles. I urge other cities and states across the country to take similar steps to protect our kids from addictive and cancer-causing behaviors.”
L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell is Vice-Chair of City’s Health committee.
"I am committed to making Los Angeles' city-owned facilities some of the safest in the nation, and that includes creating spaces that promote healthier living,” said Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Chair of the City’s Arts, Parks, and Los Angeles River Committee. “We can do more to protect Angelenos from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, and I applaud my colleagues for bringing this issue to the City Council.”
San Francisco was the first city in the nation to eliminate smokeless tobacco at its athletic fields earlier this year, and Boston passed similar legislation last week. All three ordinances are expected to be in place before the 2016 season (San Francisco’s takes effect on January 1 and Boston’s on April 1.) The movement to take tobacco out of baseball is in full swing, and the big question is: Which city will step up to the plate and be next?
“With today’s vote, the Los Angeles City Council has provided tremendous momentum to take tobacco out of baseball once and for all,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This action will save lives by reducing the number of young people who begin to use smokeless tobacco because they follow the example of their favorite Major Leaguers. Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product."
During today’s City Council meeting, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids played a video for the City Council highlighting the urgency and success of the “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign, featuring political leaders, public health advocates, little league players and other supporters. That video can be viewed online and downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1K2owny
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 like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.
According to a new report issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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.
Smokeless tobacco companies spent more than $435 million on marketing in 2012 (the most recent year available), which is almost three times the amount they spent in 1998.
For years, leading health organizations have called for an end to smokeless tobacco in baseball. A number of groups mounted a major campaign in 2010-2011 that made some significant strides – including securing a prohibition on players carrying tobacco tins in their uniforms and using smokeless tobacco during TV interviews. But these restrictions did not eliminate smokeless tobacco use at ballparks.
More information on the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign can be found at tobaccofreebaseball.org.