The familiar image of baseball players chewing tobacco may soon be history in California, where state lawmakers are considering outlawing tobacco use in all baseball parks to set a better example for young fans.
The Tobacco-Free Baseball Act was introduced Tuesday by California Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) and San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell. If passed, the bill will ban anyone in a ballpark, including players, from using any tobacco product. It would apply to baseball games at all levels, from locally organized leagues to the Major League Baseball.
Cigarettes and cigars are already banned or restricted at ballparks across the U.S. But the California bill takes aim at smokeless tobacco. Chewing tobacco originally attracted players looking to keep their mouths from getting dry, and remains popular among one-third of MLB players during games, Men’s Health reports.
The health consequences were spotlighted in June, when Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn succumbed to salivary gland cancer at age 54, and again in August, when longtime MLB pitcher Curt Schilling discussed his battle with oral cancer. Both players blamed their cancers on chewing tobacco.
But the proposed ban isn’t about the players’ health. Thurmond said he hopes wiping tobacco from ballparks will be a positive influence on the sport’s most wide-eyed fans.
“The use of smokeless tobacco in baseball, at any level and in any location, sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch the game and far too often see their favorite players using snuff, dip or chew,” Thurmond said in a press release issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We have a great opportunity to protect our players and stand up for kids by getting tobacco out of the game.”
American men’s use of smokeless tobacco has been increasing steadily since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the product is especially popular among men aged 18 to 25. Its health consequences may include mouth, esophagus and pancreatic cancer; other mouth diseases; increased risk of early delivery and stillbirth when used by pregnant women; and increased risk of death from heart disease and stroke.