Snuffing Out Snuff: Baseball Restricts Smokeless Tobacco Use

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Knock tobacco out of the Park banner.

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!

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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