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Health care advocates cheer new tobacco policy for 2012 baseball season

“We Did It: New Baseball Contract Limits Tobacco Use!” says the coalition initiated by the American Dental Association and nine major health organizations and including more than 200 national, state and local partners and supporters.

“We also applaud the members of Congress who have spoken out and provided important leadership on this issue, including Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Frank Pallone of New Jersey,” the coalition said.

Under a contract agreement announced Nov. 22 after the 2011 baseball season, big-league players, managers and coaches may no longer carry tobacco tins or packages in their uniforms at games or any time fans are in the ballpark. They will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews, at autograph signings and other events where they meet fans, or at team-sponsored appearances. The restrictions take effect in 2012.

The agreement enhances tobacco education programs for players and creates a new Major League Baseball Players Association center on cessation to help players quit.

“This is significant progress,” the coalition said. “We continue to support a complete prohibition on tobacco use at games and on camera.”

The 10 initial member organizations in a 2011 season-opening letter offered to work with the players association “toward a smokeless tobacco prohibition that would be in the best interests of baseball, the players and the millions of young people who watch their idols.”

“In light of the serious health risks from smokeless tobacco – it causes oral cancer and has been linked to heart disease and pancreatic cancer – players should be encouraged to quit and be given support to help them do so,” said the letter signed by officials of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Dental Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, Legacy, Oral Health America and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.