Monthly Archives: August 2015

Baseball and tobacco are a deadly mix

Source: www.bostonglobe.com
Authors: Dr. Howard Koh & Dr. Alan C. Woodward
 
ortiz copyUnhealthy as it looks: David Ortiz spat out his “chew” after flying out against Tampa Bay in Game 3 of the 2008 ALCS at Fenway Park.

 

Search the web for the phrase “tobacco and baseball” and you’ll find an association that dates back almost to the beginning of the sport. In the late 1800s, tobacco companies debuted baseball cards in cigarette packs. By the early 1900s, Bull Durham was advertising its chewing tobacco product on outfield fences.

Today, cigarette smoking is prohibited or restricted in all Major League parks. Still, players, coaches, and others use smokeless tobacco, often referred to as “chew” or “dip,” in virtually every stadium across the country. But tobacco that is “smokeless” is not “harmless.” It contains at least 28 carcinogens and causes oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer, along with serious health problems such as heart disease, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth lesions.

The longstanding link between tobacco and baseball has led to tragic outcomes, for players and young fans alike. Baseball legend Babe Ruth died at age 53 of throat cancer after decades of dipping and chewing. Last summer, former Red Sox pitching great Curt Schilling announced that he had been treated for oral cancer, which he attributed to three decades of chewing tobacco. Sadly, his news came shortly after the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, at age 54, after a lengthy fight with salivary gland cancer. Gwynn, too, attributed his cancer to longtime smokeless tobacco use.

As physicians who have spent decades providing patient care and promoting public health, we believe it is time to make baseball tobacco free. Today, we are proud to join Mayor Marty Walsh as he announces a historic and lifesaving city ordinance to eliminate the use of smokeless and all other tobacco products at baseball venues and athletic fields. This includes Fenway Park.

Approval of the rule would allow Boston to join San Francisco as the first two US cities to protect the future health of players, coaches, and fans in this way. It could also inspire other jurisdictions to consider similar action.

Implementing this measure would also add to our city and state’s history of leadership in fighting tobacco. Massachusetts can boast one of the first tobacco prevention and cessation programs in the country (1993), a comprehensive smoke-free law (2004), and a series of tobacco tax increases to protect kids and fund public health. Although adequate funding for state tobacco control remains an ongoing challenge, these and other measures have dropped the Massachusetts youth smoking rate (10.7 percent in 2013) to nearly a third below the national average.

Despite this progress, the national rate of smokeless tobacco use in high school has stayed disturbingly steady. In the US, nearly 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco. More than half a million youth try smokeless tobacco for the first time. Smokeless tobacco companies annually spend $435 million on marketing. A key message of such advertising is that boys can’t be real men unless they chew. Also, scores of Major League Baseball players who chew or dip in front of fans provide invaluable free advertising for the industry. Impressionable kids stand ready to imitate their every move.

For too long, the tobacco industry has normalized and glamorized products that cause drug dependence, disability, and death. Leveraging the prestige and appeal of baseball has been an essential part of that strategy. It’s time for baseball to start a new chapter that reclaims tobacco-free parks as the new norm — and for Boston, home to so many sports achievements, to lead the way.

Dr. Howard K. Koh is the former US Assistant Secretary for Health and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Heath. Dr. Alan C. Woodward, a former president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, is chair of Tobacco Free Mass.

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

August, 2015|Oral Cancer News|

Mayor Walsh Wants Ban On Chewing Tobacco At All City Ballparks

Source: www.wbur.org
Author: Philip Marcelo
Curt SchillingFormer Boston Red Sox pitcher and mouth cancer survivor Curt Schilling, pictured here at Fenway Park in 2012, was on hand Wednesday as Mayor Marty Walsh proposed banning smokeless tobacco products from all city professional and amateur athletic venues. (Winslow Townson/AP)

 

From storied Fenway Park to youth baseball diamonds across the city, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh is calling for a ban on dip, snuff and chewing tobacco.

With former Red Sox pitcher and mouth cancer survivor Curt Schilling at his side, the mayor on Wednesday proposed banning smokeless tobacco products from all city professional and amateur athletic venues.

“Kids shouldn’t have to watch their role models using tobacco, either at a neighborhood park or on TV,” Walsh said, standing at home plate of a South Boston baseball diamond. “Ballfields are places for mentoring and healthy development. They’re no place for cancer-causing substances.”

Schilling, who revealed earlier this year he was diagnosed with mouth cancer after decades of using chewing tobacco, described his battle with the illness, which he said is in remission.

“It was more painful than anything you could imagine,” he said, addressing the dozens of school-age kids in attendance. “I couldn’t swallow. I had to eat from a tube. I was sick every single day. And if it came back, I don’t know if I would go through the treatment again. It was that bad.”

The 48-year-old ESPN analyst acknowledged Walsh’s proposal will likely meet resistance from major league players, but he believes they will eventually come to accept it, just as they had when smoking was banned in ballparks years ago.

“This is about our kids,” Schilling said. “We have to accept the responsibility that we impact the decisions and the choices that they make.”

Under their union contract, MLB players aren’t banned from using smokeless tobacco products, though they can’t use them during televised interviews and can’t carry them around when fans are in the ballparks.

The Red Sox organization applauded Walsh’s proposal, which requires City Council approval.

“We all know the horrific and tragic stories of ballplayers who have suffered the consequences of using smokeless tobacco,” the team said in a statement. “Our focus on baseball – and on bringing children closer to the game – fortify our resolve to cooperate in this effort.”

Altria, the makers of popular smokeless tobacco products Skoal and Copenhagen, declined to comment Wednesday. Other smokeless tobacco makers did not immediately weigh in.

Walsh’s proposal would apply to everyone in a ballpark, including fans, players, ground crews and concession staff.

The proposed ordinance would cover professional, collegiate, high school or organized amateur sporting events and be effective April 1. His office says those managing sporting event sites would be responsible for assuring compliance. Violators would be subject to a $250 fine.

If approved, Boston would become the second U.S. city, behind San Francisco, to ban chewing tobacco and related products from ballfields. That city’s ban takes effect Jan. 1. Los Angeles is also considering a ban that’s focused solely on baseball and does not impact other sports.

Walsh plans to officially file his proposal Monday.

Specifically, he calls for banning use of smokeless tobacco products, which are defined as any product containing “cut, ground, powdered, or leaf tobacco and is intended to be placed in the oral or nasal cavity.”

Public health officials Wednesday said major league players represent “powerful marketers” for smokeless tobacco products, whether they realize it or not.

Cigarette smoking has been on the decline in the U.S., but smokeless tobacco use among youth has remained relatively steady in recent years, noted Dr. Howard Koh, a former U.S. assistant secretary for health who now teaches at Harvard.

Nearly 15 percent of high-school age boys reported using smokeless products in recent studies, he added.

The Surgeon General and the National Cancer Institute say smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals that can lead to oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer and other health problems like heart disease, gum disease and tooth decay.

“Smokeless tobacco is not harmless,” Koh said. “All of this is preventable. We can do something about this.”

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

August, 2015|Oral Cancer News|