By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
High school athletes are smoking less but using smokeless tobacco more — nearly twice as much as students who don’t play sports, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although smoking rates for all high school students dropped from 32 percent in 2001 to 20 percent in 2013, the use of smokeless tobacco among athletes during that time increased from 10 percent to 11.1 percent. For non-athletes, smokeless tobacco use remained steady at about 6 percent.
Among male high school athletes, the rate of smokeless tobacco use was 17.4 percent in 2013.
According to Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the increase in smokeless tobacco points to the need to prohibit all tobacco use by players, personnel and fans in every baseball venue, including major league stadiums.
Such action might help make smokeless tobacco use less socially acceptable and reduce its use among student athletes, according to the CDC.
“Taking tobacco out of baseball will save lives by reducing the number of young people who begin to use smokeless tobacco because they followed the example of the players they idolize,” Myers said in a statement.
In 2011, Major League Baseball reached a labor deal for the 2012 season that limited the use of smokeless tobacco. Players agreed not to carry tobacco in front of fans or use it during media interviews or official team functions. However, the deal fell short of completely removing smokeless tobacco.
Cities are increasingly enforcing smoke-free laws for public parks and beaches. Some are also passing policies to stop the use of all types of tobacco products at baseball games.
San Francisco was the first U.S. city to outlaw chewing tobacco on playing fields, which will be tobacco-free by Jan. 1. The Boston City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to prohibit smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products at baseball parks, including Fenway Park, Little League fields and other sports venues throughout the city. Boston’s tobacco-free rule goes into effect April 1.
Last week, California passed a state bill prohibiting tobacco use on the playing fields of major league baseball stadiums. The bill, currently before the governor, covers all five major league cities in California and would start during the 2017 season.
Each year, about 535,000 kids ages 12 to 17 use smokeless tobacco for the first time. Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 known carcinogens and causes heart disease, cancer and other serious health problems like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.