Local health officials looking to knock tobacco all the way out of Fenway Park [map] are lining up behind a Washington, D.C., nonprofit to urge Major League Baseball and the players’ union to ban players, coaches and managers from using the smokeless variety at all games and ballparks.
“I understand this issue as a former smoker, but I also feel like we all have roles to play as we’re adults, and making sure that we’re not modeling unhealthy behaviors is something we can all do and do easily,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Boston Public Health Commission, one of 15 top public health officials nationwide advocating for the ban with nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This would be another opportunity for our sports heroes to be heroes and really put out that very important image.”
Smoking is already banned at Fenway. Dan Cronin, spokesman for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the nonprofit is targeting chew, raising awareness about the issue as contract negotiations for the 2012 collective bargaining are under way. Scrutiny from Congress and players, including Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, speaking publicly about their tobacco addictions are major factors in pushing the ban, Cronin said.
“We’re just getting started, but we’re showing there are people who really care about this,” Cronin said. “We want all the parks covered. We want to protect everybody.”
Ferrer said smokeless tobacco is one of the leading causes of oral cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that since 2003 there’s been a 36 percent increase in the number of high school boys using smokeless tobacco.
“Smokeless tobacco in and of itself is very dangerous,” Ferrer said. “Because there’s no smoke associated with it I think people think it’s not as dangerous.”
Tobacco has already been stamped out in baseball’s minor leagues, the NCAA and the National Hockey League, Ferrer said.
Sox manager Terry Francona’s struggle with smokeless tobacco is well known. The Red Sox [team stats] “follow the Major League Baseball tobacco policy, which addresses the issue of chewing tobacco,” according to a team statement.
“Following the lead of MLB, we take steps to reach out to our players through smokeless tobacco education programs and we also administer oral examinations during spring training.”
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