Monday, March 14, 2011

As one of the most popular sports in the United States, baseball is a highly integral and influential part of American culture today. Unfortunately, tobacco companies thrive on Major League Baseball players, who are the most prominent spokesmen for smokeless tobacco. The very heroes that many people, especially young kids, look up to are conveying a dangerous message that promotes a behavior that leads to mouth diseases, cancers, and heart attacks.

Despite the sufferings of Babe Ruth and Tony Gwynn with cancer, MLB players, coaches, and managers continue to chew tobacco all season long. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that smokeless tobacco use among high school boys has increased by 36% in the past seven years.

In a January article in the Washington Post, Washington Nationals superstar pitcher Stephen Strasberg recalls how he began using smokeless tobacco as a teenager to better emulate the ballplayers he idolized. Strasberg is attempting to quit tobacco and his goal was to be tobacco free by spring training. Not only is Strasberg quitting because of the many health risks associated with tobacco use, but he also doesn't want kids who want to be like him to see him chewing.

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and nine supporting organizations are calling upon MLB and the Players Association to ban all tobacco use on the field and in the dugout in their upcoming contract negotiations. The contract to be signed will be in place for five seasons, so taking action now is crucial.

Tobacco use has already been banned in the minors, the NCAA and the National Hockey League. It is time that MLB does the same.

Join the Campaign’s efforts to Knock Tobacco Out of the Park by sending a message to Major League Baseball denouncing smokeless tobacco.

Harmeet Singh
Tobacco Control Team


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