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ADA, leading health groups urge MLB, Players Association to ban tobacco use at ballparks

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig responds

July 01, 2014

By Kimber Solana

The American Dental Association joined eight other major medical and public health organizations in urging Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to prohibit tobacco use at ballparks and on camera, prompting a response from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
    
The organizations wrote a letter to MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark and Mr. Selig following the death of baseball legend and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. He was 54.
    
"We are deeply saddened that his life was ended far too soon by cancer that he attributed to his longtime use of chewing tobacco," the June 24 letter stated.
    
"Major League Baseball and the Players Association can honor Tony Gwynn's memory by agreeing to a complete prohibition on tobacco use at ballparks and on camera. Our organizations urge you to do so without delay."
    
The ADA, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Legacy, Oral Health America and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation signed the letter.
    
However, Mr. Selig, who responded to the groups' letter on June 30, said that while MLB is doing everything possible to eliminate smokeless tobacco from baseball, its hands are tied from completely implementing a ban.
    
The health groups had said in their letter to MLB and the Players Association that the use of smokeless tobacco endangers the health of baseball players.
    
"It also sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch baseball at the ballpark or on TV and often see players and managers using tobacco," the letter said.
    
Mr. Selig said that in the last round of collective bargaining, MLB proposed a complete prohibition on the use and possession of smokeless tobacco.

"The regulation of the use of tobacco products by Major League players is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining with the Players Association," he said in his response.

"Both the Players Association, and the players who attended the bargaining sessions, were firm in their view that the players would not agree to a ban on the use of smokeless tobacco because, as adults, they have the right to make their own choices," he said.
 
However, the players were sensitive to the concerns that visibly using smokeless tobacco during games sent the wrong message to the youth, Mr. Selig said.

In 2011, MLB and the Players Association agreed to impose limitations on where and when smokeless tobacco may be used or carried. Players, managers and coaches are prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and club appearances. They are also required to conceal tobacco products when fans are in the ballpark.
    
The health groups said in their letter to MLB and the Players Association said the agreements "are not sufficient to eliminate smokeless tobacco use in public settings or to prevent more players from becoming addicted to these deadly products."
    
In his response, Mr. Selig said that although the Players Association does not have a legal obligation to bargain with MLB over the topic until the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2016, the union has agreed to meet MLB and determine whether the views of its membership have changed since 2011.
    
According to MouthHealthy.org, the ADA's consumer website, chewing tobacco can harm a person's health because it contains toxins, which can cause gum disease. Other possible oral health impacts of tobacco products include: stained teeth and tongue; dulled sense of taste and smell; slow healing after a tooth extraction or other surgery; difficulties in correcting cosmetic dental problems; and oral cancer.
    
For additional information on smokeless or chewing tobacco, click here.