Los Angeles Councilmember José Huizar (District 14) announced plans to introduce an ordinance to eliminate the use of smokeless tobacco products at all baseball venues in Los Angeles, both to set the right example for America’s youth and for the health of the players. The legislation will send a simple and powerful message to kids with the 2015 season in full swing: baseball and tobacco don’t mix.
Public health advocates joined Councilmember Huizar in announcing the latest leg of the “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign to promote tobacco-free baseball and help reduce smokeless tobacco use among kids.
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.
Recent headlines have driven home the seriousness of the problem. Last June, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54 after a long battle with salivary gland cancer, which he attributed to his longtime use of chewing tobacco. Two months later, pitching great Curt Schilling, only 47, announced his treatment for oral cancer that he said was “without a doubt, unquestionably” caused by 30 years of chewingtobacco.
“There is no good that comes out of smokeless tobacco use in baseball – not for the players and not for the millions of kids who look up to them,” said Councilmember Huizar. “It’s time to do the right thing and take tobacco out of the game completely for the good of baseball and the health of our kids and players alike.”
Even as cigarette use continues a steady decline among youth, smokeless tobacco use has remained troublingly steady. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2013, 14.7 percent of high school boys (and 8.8 percent of all high school students) reported current use of smokeless tobacco products. Each year, about 535,000 kids age 12-17 use smokeless tobacco for the first time.
Huizar’s proposal will apply to baseball games at all levels within city limits and will cover the players, fans, and anyone in the entire venue during a baseball game or related activity.
“Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We have the momentum on our side to finally take tobacco out of baseball for kids, the players and the future. Today’s action in Los Angeles will help achieve our goal of the first tobacco-free generation. Players who dip or chew are providing the tobacco industry with free marketing, and that’s not something anyone needs.”
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.
In May, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to prohibit the use of all tobacco products at all baseball venues and athletic fields within the city and county of San Francisco, including by fans and players at AT&T Park. The Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance unanimously, and the law will take effect January 1, 2016.
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 – includingsecuring 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. The website includes tools that allow fans and other members of the public to send messages to MLB and the Players Association telling them to get tobacco out of baseball. Baseball fans in Los Angeles can contact their elected officials and urge them to support the measures proposed today to make baseball tobacco-free.