For Immediate Release: November 8, 2016
Contact: Mina Radman (202) 296-5469
Milwaukee Alderman Offers Measure To Make Baseball Tobacco-Free
Leading Health Experts Praise Proposal That Will Protect Kids and Players
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy has introduced an ordinance to eliminate the use of smokeless tobacco products at Miller Park and other sports venues in Milwaukee, both to set the right example for America’s youth and for the health of the players. The legislation will send a simple and powerful message to kids: baseball and tobacco don’t mix.
Public health advocates will join Alderman Murphy at a Common Council hearing on the ordinance this Thursday, November 10. Murphy’s proposal will apply to all sports facilities at all levels (professional, collegiate, high school and amateur) within city limits and will cover anyone in the entire venue, including on the playing field, benches, vendor areas, spectator stands, and parking lots including tailgating locations.
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco have enacted laws prohibiting tobacco use at sports venues, including their professional baseball stadiums. Washington, D.C. has approved similar legislation, which is awaiting the mayor’s signature. And a statewide law in California will also take effect before the 2017 season. Once all of these laws are implemented, 11 of the 30 Major League stadiums will be tobacco-free.
Public health experts – including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization – have all concluded that smokeless tobacco use is dangerous. Smokeless tobacco 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.
Tragic events over the last two years have driven home the seriousness of the problem. In June 2014, 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.
“For too long tobacco has been a stain on the great game of baseball – and it’s time to get tobacco out of baseball once and for all to set the right example for the millions of kids who watch the sport and emulate their favorite players,” aid Alderman Murphy. “When they are on the job, major league players have a responsibility to set the right example. Let’s make Milwaukee a shining example for the rest of the game.”
The CDC has reported that high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes, and smokeless tobacco use among athletes increased more than 11 percent from 2001 to 2013, even as smoking rates dropped significantly. Among male high school athletes, smokeless tobacco use is particularly alarming at 17.4 percent in 2013.
“Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Milwaukee is sending the right message that baseball players are role models for our nation’s youth and that chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture. We have the momentum on our side to finally take tobacco out of baseball for kids, the players and the future. We applaud Alderman Murphy for his leadership on this important issue.”
Smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent more than $500 million on marketing in 2013 (the most recent data available), driving home the message that teen boys cannot be real men unless they chew. The link between baseball and chewing tobacco reinforces this message.
For years, leading health organizations have called for an end to smokeless tobacco in baseball. A number of groups mounted a major campaign in 2010-2011 that made some significant strides – including securing a prohibition on players carrying tobacco tins in their uniforms and using smokeless tobacco during TV interviews. But these restrictions did not eliminate smokeless tobacco use at ballparks.
More information on the Knock Tobacco Out of the Park campaign can be found at tobaccofreebaseball.org. The website includes tools that allow fans and other members of the public to send messages to MLB and the Players Association telling them to get tobacco out of baseball. Baseball fans in the Milwaukee area will be able to contact their local officials and urge them to support the measure to make baseball tobacco-free.