Past time for MLB to ban smokeless tobacco: Column

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The first pitches of the new Major League Baseball season in Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco mark the moment players there must abide by local laws that ban chewing tobacco use in ballparks. Similar restrictions in Chicago and New York will go into effect later this season. This is a first in the major leagues, and a welcome change, but it’s long past time to get chewing tobacco out of America’s pastime.

Chewing tobacco has been pervasive in the game since the rules of modern baseball were first written in 1845.

What’s different today is that the dangers are well known. The use of chewing tobacco has devastating health effects, including oral, pancreatic, and esophageal cancer. It also leads to heart and gum disease, tooth decay, and the loss of jaws, chins, cheeks and noses.

After years of suffering through a difficult and painful battle with cancer, former San Diego Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died in June 2014 of salivary gland cancer. While there’s no definitive way to pin down cause and effect, Gwynn said the cancer was located exactly where he placed his chew.

Six years ago, at a congressional hearing in Washington, I demanded that chewing tobacco be banned from baseball. That hearing was followed by multiple letters to MLB and to individual teams asking them to take action to get chewing tobacco out of the game.

 

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