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Russell Mokhiber Headshot

Baseball and Obesity

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One way that the anti-tobacco movement made inroads was to campaign to ban smoking in public spaces -- like airlines, restaurants and public buildings.

The same thing should be done for junk food.

Smoking is not allowed at Major League Baseball ballparks.

Junk food should be similarly curtailed.

Instead, Major League Baseball encourages junk food consumption, first and foremost, by selling all you can eat tickets.

A recent snap survey we conducted found 16 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams had some form of an all you can eat package.

(The sixteen teams that have all you can eat tickets are the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and Toronto Blue Jays.)

A typical package includes all you can eat hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, soda and popcorn -- along with your ticket to the game.

Most disappointing is the team our family roots for -- the Baltimore Orioles.

Earlier this year, the Orioles and Major League Baseball teamed up with Michelle Obama to get behind the First Lady's Let's Move program, set up to attack childhood obesity.

The video promoting the program features the Orioles exercising and stretching. And at the end of it, the First Lady says -- "Most of all, let's eat better, so that we have the energy we need to play an hour a day, every day."

The First Lady joined MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at Camden Yards earlier this year to announce the launch of the program.

Obama talked about new public service announcements that "will reach even more kids and families about the need for better nutrition and increased physical activity, and I want to thank MLB and the Players Association for their commitment to the 'Let's Move!' campaign."

Selig said that "Major League Baseball is pleased to support this vitally important campaign for the young people in our country."

"The health and welfare of the country's youth is a top priority for Major League Baseball. I applaud the First Lady for her leadership in this effort and continue to pledge our dedication towards fighting childhood obesity."

Really?

Then why allow all you can eat ticket programs to proliferate?

For example, for $50, you can get your ticket to a game at Orioles Park at Camden Yards, and you can wolf down as many hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and as much soda and ice cream as you want.

Oh yeah, and "garden salads."

But that's just a cover for the junk.

If you doubt it, check out the Orioles promotion for its all you can eat programs.

You'll see the Orioles bird carrying a hot dog, soda and popcorn -- no salad -- and you see pictures of young kids at the hot dog stand -- no salad.

Adding to the Orioles double standard is Fred Manfra, the radio voice of the Orioles, who keeps telling us that he has lost 50 pounds while following a program set up by commercial sponsor Medifast.

Fourteen of the Major League Baseball teams don't have all you can eat programs or have abandoned them.

None will say that they have banned them for public health reasons.

But the new public health movement is taking a page from the anti-tobacco movements and outlawing "obesogenic environments."

Major League Baseball should live up to Bud Selig's words and get rid of these all you can eat programs as a threat to public health.