It’s time to knock tobacco out of the park.
For baseball fans, the month of October means the start of the post season, and all the drama, intrigue, and excitement that brings. This year, the Major League Baseball playoffs also bring an important milestone in tobacco control: for the first time, half of the teams in the post season play in a city that has prohibited the use of smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products at sporting events.
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco have all enacted tobacco bans at their stadiums. Two of the remaining five playoff cities, Washington, DC and Toronto, are also considering similar measures that could be in place as early as next season. This growing interest to take tobacco out of baseball may motivate both players and owners to agree to a complete ban in the player-owner collective bargaining agreement currently being negotiated.
We can all agree that America’s pastime should model the healthy and safe behaviors we desire for our kids. Studies show that youth are influenced by tobacco use in sports. In fact, according to a September 2015 report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, high school athletes who play on sports teams smoke tobacco products at a lower rate than non-athletes, but use smokeless tobacco at a higher rate. Professional players, who have traditionally had high levels of smokeless tobacco use, serve as role models for youth. Young athletes watch their every move, from how they hold their bat – to how they chew tobacco.
While smokeless tobacco use has been banned in the minor leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) since the early 1990s, it remains permitted in the MLB. Since the 2012 season, Major League Baseball players have been prohibited from carrying tobacco tins or pouches in their uniforms and using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews, at autograph signings and other events where they meet fans, or at team-sponsored appearances. We can do more. Youth across the nation can encourage players and owners to get rid of smokeless tobacco for good.
The playoffs are already underway, and when you tune into games being played at AT&T Park, Citifield, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field, consider what it means for these venues to be free of tobacco. For decades, MLB players have provided the tobacco industry with millions of dollars in free advertising. This year, young baseball fans will be able to watch the playoffs and see less of a deadly, disgusting and addictive product.
Every year, October baseball creates moments and memories that will become a part of baseball history and lore for eternity. This year, there’s a better chance than ever that these moments will be tobacco-free.
For resources to help you educate your community and gather support for tobacco-free baseball, visit www.tobaccofreebaseball.org.