Saturday, March 31 is opening day for baseball, and its also a great time to remind people that many ballparks in the U.S. are now tobacco-free environments. While it was once a common sight to see a can of dip in the back pocket of a player, it is now about promoting a healthy lifestyle. But smokeless tobacco is still ingrained into the sport of baseball and being used by too many players.
Smokeless tobacco has been banned from the minor leagues since 1993 and the NCAA has banned it as well. Players in the minors can be fined for having it in their lockers or using it on the field. The NCAA rules prohibits “players, coaches, umpires, athletic trainers and managers from using tobacco at game sites.” If caught by the umpire, “player and coach face ejection” from the game. Even umpires are banned. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop smokeless tobacco use.
Coaches admit that telling their players the habit is unhealthy isn’t going to change their use. Some players admit it is a “way of life” and a “stress reliever.” And what starts in high school or even earlier, follows them throughout their life. Even coaches aren’t immune from the addiction of the can.
While the Major League supports the bans at the stadiums, are they really doing much to control the players? The 2016 bargaining agreement between players and owners prohibits new MLB players from using smokeless tobacco, but grandfathers in all other players. MLB says it is monitoring the players and issuing fines if players violate local laws but they won’t say how many. However, players say the laws violate their personal rights and some question who will be enforcing the law. The MLB does offer cessation programs for players.
Perhaps we have an optimist view that when the current players leave and the next generation is on the field, we will be closer to a truly tobacco-free game. We can only hope that players will realize tobacco isn’t making them a better player, it is taking away their right to a healthy life and long future. Until then, baddah up, and knock tobacco out of the ball park.
Articles used in this blog:
Smokeless tobacco ingrained in baseball, despite bans and Gwynn’s death
Smokeless Tobacco Is Gone From the Ballpark, if Not the Clubhouse
Can Major League Baseball really rid itself of smokeless tobacco?