Lawmakers put forth two measures in Sacramento and San Francisco that would rid the nation’s pastime of the pervasive use of smokeless tobacco.
The bills come less than a year after Hall of Famer and longtime chewing tobacco user Tony Gwynn died from salivary gland cancer and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling announced he had been treated for oral cancer most likely caused by a 30-year chewing tobacco habit.
California Assembly member Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, authored one of the measures and said in a statement that it can both protect players and kids by getting tobacco out of the game. Smoking is already prohibited at major league parks.
Thurmond’s statewide bill would apply to the major and minor leagues, all interscholastic and intramural play and organized leagues for youths and adults. The San Francisco ordinance would also apply to baseball games at all levels and, if approved, would make the city the first to require all baseball venues to be tobacco-free.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is backing both measures. Matthew Myers, the organization’s president, said that despite a steady decline in cigarette use among teenage boys, the use of smokeless tobacco has risen over the past decade.
“It is in no small part a direct result of them seeing major league players use it,” Myers said, “and they want to emulate them.”
Myers said his organization plans to use its “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” initiative to bring awareness to the issue and support potential legislation in other states.
“It makes sense to start in California because it has more major league baseball teams than any other state – five,” Myers said. “So if legislation is passed here, not only will it set a national trend, but it could be the tipping point by itself.”
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown congratulated California lawmakers for pushing the issue to the forefront.
“We strongly support their efforts to keep deadly smokeless tobacco away from baseball games,” said Brown. “Tobacco has no place in our national pastime, 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.”