March 02, 2015
A bill (AB 768) that would eliminate the use of all tobacco products – including smokeless tobacco – at all baseball venues in California in an effort to protect the health of players and to set an effective example for children was introduced Tuesday by Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond). A similar local measure was also introduced in San Francisco by Supervisor Mark Farrell.
Public health advocates, including the California Medical Association (CMA) and youth baseball players, joined Assemblymember Thurmond and Supervisor Farrell at the respective announcements in Sacramento and San Francisco. The event served as the launch of the “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign to promote the legislation.
Health authorities have found that smokeless tobacco use is hazardous to health and can lead to nicotine addiction. Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer – as well as other serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.
Even as cigarette use continues to show a steady decline among youth, smokeless tobacco use has remained troublingly steady. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, 14.7 percent of high school boys (and 8.8 percent of all high school students) reported current use of smokeless tobacco products. Each year, roughly 535,000 kids ages 12-17 use smokeless tobacco for the first time.
Last June, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54 after a long battle with salivary gland cancer, which he attributed to his longtime use of chewing tobacco. Two months later, pitching great Curt Schilling, only 47, announced his treatment for oral cancer that he said was “without a doubt, unquestionably” caused by 30 years of chewing tobacco.
The Tobacco-Free Baseball Act will apply to baseball games at all levels, including the major and minor leagues, all interscholastic and intermural play, and organized leagues for youth or adults. It will cover the players, the fans, and anyone in the venue during a baseball game or related activity. Smoking is already prohibited at Major League Baseball parks; this legislation would simply expand the ban to include all tobacco.
Smokeless tobacco companies spent about $450 million on marketing in 2011 (the most recent year available) – more than three times the amount they spent in 1998.
For more information on the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign, click here.
While CMA has yet to take an official position on the bill, the legislation is in line with longstanding policy to reduce access to tobacco products.