Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) has announced the passage of AB 768, a law that will prohibit the use or possession of smokeless tobacco products in California’s five professional baseball stadiums.
“AB 768 is all about the kids. Specifically, what professional baseball players do in view of kids when they are out on the field. The use of smokeless tobacco in baseball, at any level and in any location, sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch the game and far too often see their favorite players using snuff or chew,” said Assemblymember Thurmond, speaking after Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill.
While it might be true that many of our professional baseball players did not ask to be role models, it does not change the fact that they are role models to our state’s youth, said Thurmond.
The “Role Model” effect of smokeless tobacco in baseball has been confirmed by research from Harvard School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the University of California, San Francisco.
Despite a decline in cigarette use among youth, their use of smokeless tobacco products has remained largely unchanged. The CDC reports that more than 500,000 kids, ages 12-17, use smokeless tobacco for the first time each year, and 14.7 percent of high school boys reported current use of smokeless tobacco products in 2013.
In a 2015 report from the UC San Francisco titled “Smokeless Tobacco in Sport and Use among Adolescents,” researchers found that “competitive organized baseball, including professional leagues, exhibits exceptionally high levels of smokeless tobacco use among its players.”
Those findings are substantiated by a recent MLB survey that revealed that approximately 33 percent of MLB players currently use smokeless tobacco. The early loss of Tony Gwynn to salivary gland cancer in 2014 and Curt Schillings’ ongoing battle against oral cancer, serve as stark reminders that smokeless tobacco use is an embedded component of the MLB.
Both the minor leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have banned its use—since 1993 and 1994, respectively.
Furthermore, in the spirit of protecting our children, the bill sets the floor for smokeless tobacco restrictions by allowing local jurisdictions to enact more stringent restrictions on the use of smokeless tobacco.
The city and county of San Francisco recently banned the use of smokeless tobacco at AT&T Park and the City of Los Angeles has proposed a ban that extends to all professional sporting events—including baseball. This bill continues the movement to curtail the use of smokeless tobacco.