America’s youth look up to sports figures, and while smokeless tobacco has not been completely banished from baseball, Northeast Delta Dental applauds Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for making a positive step toward completely eliminating tobacco’s visibility from impressionable young fans. Through a recent agreement, MLB players, managers, and coaches will no longer be able to carry a smokeless tobacco tin or package in their uniforms during games or when fans are in stadiums. Additionally, they will be prohibited from “chewing” during televised interviews, at autograph signings, and other fan events.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 39,000 people were diagnosed with oral cancer and nearly 8,000 people died of the disease in 2011, and that men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed. Tobacco use is considered a major risk factor for the development of oral cancers. Delta Dental wants the professional baseball community to be aware of the inherent risks and dangers of smokeless tobacco use, and the influence that the actions of professional baseball players have on youthful fans. Whether they like it or not, athletes serve as role models for impressionable children and teens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Study found that more than 11% of male high school students and four percent of male middle school students were current smokeless tobacco users.
“All tobacco products, including spit (smokeless) tobacco, are harmful and can cause cancer and other oral health problems,” said Dr. Shannon Mills, Vice President of Professional Relations and Science at Northeast Delta Dental. “There is no safe level of tobacco use and the use of all tobacco products should be highly discouraged.”
Interestingly, all tobacco products are banned at the Minor League Baseball level. Players and coaches are fined if caught and inspectors are regularly sent to facilities to watch from the stands and inspect the locker rooms. MiLB takes it very seriously and works hard to educate players and discourage its use. According to Rick Brenner, President of DSF Sports, the company that owns the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, their team members are provided seeds and gum in the dugout for all games to give the players a healthy alternative.