Baseball Contract Limits Tobacco Use
Baseball’s new labor deal will limit the use of smokeless tobacco by players, but not ban it during games, as some public health groups had sought.
Players have agreed not to carry tobacco packages and tins in their back pockets when fans are permitted in the ballpark, or use tobacco during pregame or postgame interviews, and at team functions.
But the restrictions fall short of the call by some advocates, including members of Congress, who argued that a ban on chewing tobacco and dip during games was needed to protect impressionable kids watching on TV.
"Our members understand that this is a dangerous product, there are serious risks associated with using it," union head Michael Weiner told The Associated Press. "Our players felt strongly that those were appropriate measures to take but that banning its use on the field was not appropriate under the circumstances."
The players union also has agreed to join forces with the Partnership at DrugFree.org and the baseball commissioner’s office to create a nationwide public service announcement campaign. Several players have agreed to do public outreach, including Curtis Granderson, Jeremy Guthrie and C.J. Wilson. In addition, the union will start a Tobacco Cessation Center for its players, and players will be offered training on how to give up the habit.
Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, one of the groups that led the anti-tobacco push, said that while he would have preferred a ban at games and on camera, the restrictions represent real progress.
"The new Major League Baseball contract takes an historic first step toward getting smokeless tobacco out of the ballgame, and makes significant progress toward protecting the health of big-league players and millions of young fans who look up to them," he said in a statement.
"Baseball players have been using tobacco since the earliest days of the game. This forward step marks the first time ever that the league and the players have recognized that it is time to break this unhealthy connection."
Four U.S. senators who had urged the union to adopt a ban on the eve of this year’s World Series had a similar take.
"Major League Baseball made the right decision today in choosing to implement stricter rules for smokeless tobacco on the field and off the field," said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, and fellow Democrats Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa. "This is a welcome acknowledgement by players and owners that tobacco use of any kind is no longer a tradition that should be upheld."