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Drugs & Health Blog

Snuffing Out Snuff: Baseball Restricts Smokeless Tobacco Use

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Sara Bellum

Who will be this year’s “Mr. October”? The onset of the playoffs has SBB thinking about all things baseball—home runs, hot dogs, and strikeouts. Another common image: baseball players chewing and spitting smokeless tobacco.

But that image might be fading. For the 2012 season, Major League Baseball (MLB) banned players, managers, and coaches from carrying smokeless tobacco tins or packages whenever fans are in the park.

They also aren’t supposed to use smokeless tobacco during televised interviews, team-sponsored appearances, autograph signings, and other events where fans are present—and can even be reported for violating these rules.

“Chew” and Baseball: A Long History

Since the mid-1800s, smokeless tobacco—called dip, chew, and snuff—has often been used in baseball. Players chewed the stuff to keep their mouths moist on dusty fields, and they spit it into their mitts to keep them flexible. In the 1920s, many players switched to cigarettes, until the 1970s, when people realized how harmful smoking is. After that, smokeless tobacco made a comeback.

However, smokeless tobacco is just as habit-forming, damaging, and downright gross as inhaling 7,000+ chemicals into your lungs. In fact, the amount of nicotine absorbed from smokeless tobacco is 3 to 4 times greater than what a cigarette delivers.

Smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth, tongue, cheeks, gums, esophagus, and pancreas; mouth sores; and gum disease and gum recession (when the gum pulls away from the teeth).

Not only that, but spitting out tobacco juice is disgusting.

Despite these consequences, baseball players continue to use smokeless tobacco. It’s so common, in fact, that the chewing gum Big League Chew is made to look just like it and the packaging features a cartoon baseball player. Talk about sending the wrong message!

In 2011, Washington Nationals pitching great Stephen Strasburg made the personal choice to quit using smokeless tobacco. We hope that MLB’s restrictions will help other players make the healthy choice to put the snuff aside!

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Sweet! Will share with friends mate!

Smokeless tobacco comes in the forms of dip, chew, and snuff, used of special groups,and—has often been used in baseball. Players chewed the stuff to keep their mouths moist on dusty fields, and they spit it into their mitts to keep them flexible. In the 1920s. Players seemed to switch into cigarettes until the 1970s, when smoking showed to be harmful. and smokeless tobacco made a comeback. It is not easy to stop smoking at ones, so I think it is better to take other middle steps like using smokeless tobacco to achieve the goal of quitting smoking. We of course, want to live a healthier life, and need to stop using tobacco products entirely [commercial link removed, per guidelines]

I am so happy to hear that MLB is taking measures to create a better image of its players. While children and teens look up to celebrities as role models, it is often difficult to find quality examples with all of the crazy things celebrities are into these days. The MLB limitations set on smokeless tobacco during interviews, when fans are allowed in ballparks, etc. sends the message that there is something significantly negative about associating baseball with this type of drug.
As a kid, I remember looking at baseball players wondering why their cheeks looked so full and funny during games. When I found out it was tobacco I was disappointed. Even for those players that used bubblegum instead, they still seemed to carry the same image as those who were using tobacco. To me, this similar act endorses the use of tobacco as a staple of the American pastime.
This season, after moving to DC, I attended my first Nationals game. Baseball felt the same as it always has - the fans were excited, the food was good, and watching the game was a blast. The lack of tobacco was not negatively impacting the game at all! As I continued to watch the playoffs, and now the World Series, I am confident that this change is only positive for MLB’s image and influence.
Knowing that an awesome player like Stephen Strasburg can set a good example as such a young athlete gives the hope for great change among all MLB players. Despite baseball’s history with smokeless tobacco, the evolution of rules and regulations against it will hopefully provide many impressionable youth with more role models. However, not everyone feels that these limitations are necessary, maybe even especially because they look up to these players already.
One of my friends here in DC is a huge baseball fan and he plays devil’s advocate. He argues that if players want to use smokeless tobacco, then that is their right. His opinion is that the television networks do not need to show those players in broadcasts; there are other people who do not use tobacco during games or interviews and could be filmed if this is the route that networks want to go. The argument that is made from this angle favors tradition and requires an adaptation by outsiders, not players.
I feel that asking networks to be selective in whom they choose to film is going to change the feel of the game more than anything. Baseball is a team sport and the team should be equally represented even if that means imposing more rules. The current limitations are not too much to ask based on the current state of increased smoking bans across the nation. Tobacco use in public is becoming less popular. Most importantly, in my opinion, with the limitations the image of MLB, the game of baseball, and the players themselves are going to change for the better.

I think, baseball’s history with smokeless tobacco is leading evolution of rules and regulations against and it will hopefully provide youth with more role models. However, young peoples look up to these players already which is a good sign. [link removed, per guidelines]
It's quite deeply weird, when you think about it. Baseball -- that most wholesome and American of sports -- has long been associated with one of the most hazardous and rather disgusting habits known to mankind: chewing tobacco.
I love chewing tobacco
Politicians have been trying to get the MLB to reign in tobacco use for years. Baseball players will continue to do it at all levels however, despite being aware of the risks.