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Baseball Sidelines Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco has long been associated with baseball, but starting this season, perhaps now not so much. In accordance with their new labor agreement, baseball players will be more discreet about their chew. No more tins of tobacco tucked in back pockets. No more pregame/postgame interviews conducted with a wad packed between cheek and teeth. Outside of game time, no more chewing and spitting at team functions.

Players will take part in public service announcements that call attention to smokeless tobacco’s dangers, and guidance will be available to those who want to quit. The players union will establish a Tobacco Cessation Center.

“Our members understand that this is a dangerous product, there are serious risks associated with using it,” Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was quoted as saying. “Our players felt strongly that those were appropriate measures to take but that banning its use on the field was not appropriate under the circumstances.”

This awakening is too late for a number of prominent baseball figures including Tony Gwynn and Brett Butler – their chew habits have led to oral cancer – but it arrives as smokeless tobacco becomes more mainstream. Increasing prohibitions on lighting up have led some smokers to switch to smokeless products. At the same time, tobacco companies, stymied by government regulations that curtail cigarette advertising, have stepped up marketing of smokeless brands.

Smokeless tobacco does not lead to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, but that hardly makes it a safe alternative to smoking. In addition to oral cancer, smokeless tobacco products, which are loaded with sweeteners and salts, raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and tooth decay.

Smokeless tobacco is every bit as addictive and deadly as tobacco that is smoked. Laborers need to be aware.

The LHSFNA’s Laborers’ Guide to Tobacco and Quit Smoking Survival Kits offer suggestions and tips for breaking the smoking and smokeless tobacco habits. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue along with brochures and posters that contain information about tobacco’s hazards.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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