By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
When the St. Louis Cardinals’ season home opener starts on Sunday, many of baseball’s traditions will continue at Busch Stadium. But one that will be notably absent is smokeless tobacco.
St. Louis city officials passed a measure last month banning smokeless tobacco from all sports facilities throughout St. Louis, including the baseball stadium. The measure covers players, employees and fans.
“Tobacco should no longer be associated with the sports culture,” Alderwoman Dionne Flowers, who sponsored the measure, said.
“It’s commendable for the baseball institutions to say ‘we don’t want the image for a person growing up that it’s OK to chew smokeless tobacco.’ It has devastating effects,” according to Flowers.
Flowers said she is an advocate for health after losing her grandmother to esophagus cancer due to tobacco use.
Busch Stadium joins 13 Major League stadiums prohibiting smokeless tobacco: Anaheim, California; Boston; two in Chicago; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; two in New York; Oakland, California; San Diego; San Francisco; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Washington, D.C. Similar legislation is pending in Toronto and Minnesota.
“Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said through a news release. “Today’s action keeps the momentum firmly on our side to finally get tobacco out of baseball for kids, the players and the future.”
In addition to the legislation, Major League Baseball’s latest collective bargaining agreement prohibits all new players from using smokeless tobacco.
“Tobacco use of any kind by athletes endangers the health of young players and fans who follow their lead,” said Karen Englert, Missouri government relations director for the American Heart Association. “We applaud the City of St. Louis for taking this step to set a good example for younger athletes and protect employee and customer health.”
More high school athletes than non-athletes are using smokeless tobacco, despite an overall decline in smoking and tobacco use, according to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. In 2013, smokeless tobacco use was 17.4 percent among male athletes, and high school athletes used smokeless tobacco at almost twice the rate of non-athletes.
From 2001-2013, the proportion of athletes using smokeless tobacco increased from 10 percent to 11.1 percent. At the same time, overall use of any tobacco dropped from nearly 34 percent to just over 22 percent.
Public health experts – including the CDC, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization – have all concluded that smokeless tobacco use is dangerous. It contains at least 28 known carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer. The product also causes nicotine addiction and other serious health problems like gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions.
A collection of health organizations have joined forces to support the “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign to take tobacco out of baseball, including CTFK and the AHA, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
When it comes to tobacco, Flowers said, “take your health seriously. You can look like the pillar of health and have something that’s life threatening. Think about your health in the long run.”