CONTACTS: Mina Radman, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, (202) 296-5469
Ray Carson, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, (813) 349-4479
Roxana Hoveyda, American Heart Association, (703) 248-1712
Annette Eyer, American Lung Association in D.C., (717) 541-5864, ext. 131

Councilmember Alexander, Health Advocates, Youth Ballplayers Urge End to Smokeless Tobacco Use in Baseball in Nation’s Capital


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public health advocates and youth baseball players joined Councilmember Yvette Alexander at the John A. Wilson Building today to support a prohibition on smokeless tobacco use in baseball in the District to set the right example for kids. Councilmember Alexander, chair of the Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services, and Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, led a hearing later in the afternoon on the proposed ordinance to prohibit use of all tobacco products – including smokeless tobacco like chew, dip and snuff – at all sports venues in our nation’s capital, including Nationals Park.

Participants discussed how making baseball tobacco-free sends the right message to youth that tobacco should not be an accepted part of the sport. Washington, D.C. would join five Major League cities and the state of California in taking tobacco out of baseball.

At the urging of the broad-based “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park” campaign, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco have all passed laws prohibiting tobacco use at baseball venues, including their Major League stadiums. A statewide law in California will take effect before the 2017 season. Once all of these laws are in place, one-third of major league stadiums will be tobacco-free, and other MLB cities are considering similar measures.

“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. “Today’s hearing and subsequent action keeps the momentum firmly on our side to finally get tobacco out of baseball for kids, the players and the future.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (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 (the latest data available).

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. 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.

“We applaud Councilmember Alexander for her leadership on the issue and for putting the health and future of our kids first,” said Bonita Pennino, Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in the District. “We urge D.C. Councilmembers to protect kids and help us move closer to making the next generation tobacco free.”

“We know that smokeless tobacco use by MLB players endangers the health of impressionable youth who follow their lead, as well as the players themselves. It sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch baseball and see their favorite players and managers using tobacco,” said Dr. Richard Benson, President of Board of Directors for the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region.

“Prohibiting tobacco use in baseball stadiums and partnering with MLB sends a unified message nationwide to our youth, smokeless tobacco carries significant health risks and is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes,” said Deb Brown, President and CEO American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “An estimated 5.5 percent of high school students and 1.6 percent of middle school students are current smokeless tobacco users,” Brown stated. “It is a win-win to protect our youth, baseball players, patrons and the entire community.”

Also taking part in the joint announcement were Dr. Carla Williams of the D.C. Tobacco-Free Coalition, as well as local youth ball players who spoke about how they look up to their favorite players and don’t want to see them using and promoting tobacco use. The ballplayers – Julian Warren (age 15), Drew Jackson (12) and Dominic Smithers (11) – all play for the DC Dynasty baseball program based in the nation’s capital.

Smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent more than $500 million on marketing in 2013 (the most recent data available), some of which was spent declaring that real men dip, a message that resonates with teen boys. This amount doesn’t include the millions of dollars of free advertising the industry gets when players are seen using smokeless tobacco during games.

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.