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Celebrating a Big League Victory as MLB Takes Tobacco Out of Baseball

December 7, 2016

A few months ago on Major League Baseball’s (MLB) opening day, I talked about my love of the game – specifically my love for the Boston Red Sox. As the season ended, we crowned the Chicago Cubs as World Champions. Now in December, it’s the public health community that is celebrating a big league victory of its own.

Last week, MLB and its players’ union finalized the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, which includes several significant tobacco provisions. Most notably, the five-year agreement prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco products by all players new to the majors. Current big league players are still able to use tobacco products in cities that do not have an existing tobacco-free law in place.

The agreement allows MLB to penalize and fine players who violate local tobacco-free laws. It also continues to give the league authority to enforce tobacco-related restrictions agreed upon during previous collective bargaining agreements, which prohibits players and other personnel from carrying smokeless tobacco products in their uniforms and using the products during televised interviews.

Smokeless tobacco, like all other tobacco products, is dangerous and potentially deadly. It contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals, and is linked to oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer.

We applaud the players and owners for working together and committing to take this major step forward. We’re now closer to fully eliminating smokeless tobacco use from baseball and making the next generation of the sport tobacco free.

Additionally, the recent announcement builds on the important work being done in baseball cities across the country to restrict tobacco use at sports venues. Seven cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have all passed local laws prohibiting the use of all tobacco products in ballparks. And, a statewide law in California prohibiting the use of tobacco products in all sports arenas will take effect before the start of the 2017 season. Once these laws are implemented, 12 of the 30 Major League ballparks will be tobacco free.

As we look ahead to 2017, we urge other Major League cities to commit to making baseball tobacco free and pass comprehensive laws to cover players and fans. Enjoying a baseball game shouldn’t bring with it the potential risks of a lifetime of addiction for the game’s youngest fans.

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