Smokeless Tobacco and Major League Baseball

It’s almost May, and baseball season is officially well underway. It’s once again time for cracker jacks and hot dogs. Popcorn and cotton candy. Lemon ice and smokeless tobacco. Yes, smokeless tobacco is still a part of our country’s favorite pastime, and has been for decades, but with an increase of oral cancer, many are starting to stand against it. According to a recent article from Dentistry Today, 34 health organizations have joined forces to write an open letter to the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization and its Players Association, asking them to consider banning the use of smokeless tobacco at its venues for all players, personnel and fans.

Oral cancer, often preventable, has affected several in the baseball family, including Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn, who passed away in 2014 and retired pitcher, Curt Schilling, who is now being treated. But not only is the letter aimed at protecting players, but it’s also focused on young fans who are often the targets of smokeless tobacco advertisements.

“Study after study confirms, and almost any Little League ballplayer will tell you, that major league ballplayers are role models whom kids look up to and emulate,” said president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew L. Meyers. “Players who chew tobacco are setting a terrible example for the millions of young fans.”

Smokeless tobaccos is known to have at least 28 known carcinogens and can cause oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer. It also contributes to the development of gum disease, tooth decay, and oral lesions, which have been linked to a number of other, serious chronic health issues. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

“Tobacco has no place in our national pastime,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “And it will be a great day when young fans no longer receive the mixed message that it’s OK to use tobacco while playing or watching sports–or any other time.”

What do you think? Should the MLB adopt a league-wide ban on smokeless tobacco?

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