CONTACTS: Contact: John Schachter, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (202) 481-9584


New UCSF Report Finds Smokeless Tobacco Use by Pro Athletes Influences Kids

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report by researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry provides additional support to efforts locally in San Francisco, statewide in California, and across the country to take tobacco out of baseball once and for all. The report is particularly timely given the current debates on whether to prohibit smokeless tobacco use – products like chew, dip and snuff – in baseball stadiums.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering an ordinance to prohibit tobacco use by fans and players, including professionals, at all baseball venues and other athletic fields in the city of San Francisco. The Board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee is holding the first hearing on the proposal Thursday.

The UCSF researchers’ article outlines the impact of smokeless tobacco use by professional athletes on adolescent athletes. The report, Smokeless Tobacco in Sport and Use Among Adolescents, provides a summary of the evidence on the role sports and athletes play in promoting smokeless tobacco use. Among the key findings: “Professional and college athletes provide a powerful model for boys and young men to use smokeless tobacco by legitimizing chewing and dipping as an integral part of being a successful athlete, and the high levels of smokeless tobacco use observed in the college and professional ranks are mirrored among adolescent athletes.”

“This report makes clear what seems obvious to many of us – kids see athletes as role models, and when baseball stars use smokeless tobacco the kids who look up to them are much more likely to as well,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The San Francisco measure is truly historic and the first step to eliminating tobacco from baseball for good – saving millions of children from a lifetime of addiction. Our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product. It’s time to create the first tobacco-free generation.”

The report also found, “An environmental context that embraces smokeless tobacco use as normative behavior within sporting culture stimulates greater smokeless tobacco initiation and continued use on the part of young male athletes.” According to the researchers, by pooling the results of six studies, they determined that high school athletes were at 60 percent greater odds of using smokeless tobacco than were non-athletes.

Among the other key findings:

  • Nearly 15 percent of U.S. high school males currently use smokeless tobacco, and use prevalence is higher among high school students who participate in organized sports than among non-athlete peers.
  • Modeling of smokeless tobacco use by family, friends, respected coaches and elite athletes is strongly associated with smokeless tobacco initiation among adolescent males.
  • Competitive organized baseball, including professional leagues, exhibits exceptionally high levels of smokeless tobacco use among its players.

A poll released earlier this week showed that by more than a 2-1 ratio – 63 percent to 29 percent – San Francisco voters support the proposed ordinance.

“We saw this as an opportunity to look at the science and compile what is known on a topic that has broader implications for dental health and for public health overall,” said Dr. Benjamin Chaffee, a researcher in UCSF’s Division of Oral Epidemiology and Dental Public Health and a co-author of the report. The other co-authors were Drs. Elizabeth T. Couch and Margaret M. Walsh. He was quoted in a UCSF web article on the paper.

Drs. Chaffee and Walsh are co-project leaders on a cohort study of smokeless tobacco use by male high school athletes in California. “A review of the research shows that modeling by peers, coaches and family members creates an environment that fosters initiation of smokeless tobacco use among young male athletes,” says Dr. Chaffee.

The report was published on the University of California’s eScholarship open access platform.

All Baseball Fans

Ask Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to set the right example for kids and take tobacco out of baseball.